Note: A $20,000 reward was offered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and we’ve entered this article as evidence. GotNews.com’s team loves solving puzzles, provided there’s a reward at the end of it.
Updated: Corrected timeline below. Thanks to careful readers for catching Shannon’s Twitter timestamp mistake!
By Shannon Knutsen & Charles C. Johnson
The Al Sharpton-supporting man who claims to be Michael Brown’s pastor may well have burned his own church down as he asks the public for money, Gotnews.com has learned.
Just landed in DC after a stop in Ferguson at Flood Christian Ministries. Our NAN Chapter Prez Rev. Carlton Lee is the Pastor.
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) November 30, 2014
There were 26 fires in Ferguson after a grand jury declined to prosecuted Officer Darren Wilson on November 25th but one fire is unique. “[T]he Flood Christian Church, on West Florissant Avenue in Country Club Hills, is set off from the main protest area in Ferguson, and no adjacent buildings were damaged,” reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch earlier this week.
A timeline and map created by GotNews.com of Carlton Lee’s movements strongly suggests that Lee, who has long standing money trouble, burned down his own church for the insurance money.
In an article with the Washington Post‘s reporter Wesley Lowery, Pastor Carlton Lee claims he paid $160,000 to buy his Flood Christian Church. Lee asked for $250,000 at Yale’s Divinity School last week.
His church burned, Pastor Carlton Lee gathered with family yesterday to give thanks. My latest from Ferguson: http://t.co/dfxJOuDWTf
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) November 28, 2014
Property records tell a different story.
The church was purchased in June 2014 for $37,500 with a mortgage of $35,000. It has a property tax bill of $4617.36.
Lee Also Illegally Put His Children on his Board.
Lee’s church 2013 Annual Registration report filed (filed 2 mos late) with the Missouri Secretary of State lists as its sole officer, President Camirah Sarai Lee. One of three directors on its Board of Directors is Martae Osei Lee. Camirah and Osei are Lee’s minor children.
Note: Photos of minor children removed.
In March 2014 Lee was featured on local news after chasing off would be thieves at the church. He posted about it on Facebook.
Lowery didn’t investigate any of this backstory. Lowery and WMOV.com uncritically ran Lee’s claim that the pastor had gotten 71 death threats from white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, far from being objective Lowery celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with Lee.
Note that Lee says threatening letters have been sent to or left at the church. In another interview Lee mentions Facebook threats also but there’s little evidence to support these threats.
The Justice Department sources say that they have stopped pursuing the white supremacist angle. (Updated January 30: ATF sources confirm that Lee hasn’t been ruled out as a suspect.)
Since 2007, Lee has had 12 civil judgments filed against him, including 5 evictions and 6 garnishments…
(Note: The eviction is confirmed to be Lee Jr’s. Property records show his dad, Lee Sr owns the house on Hialeah Ave in Florissant, MO… He and Lee’s mother, Debra have been owner occupants since 1998.)
Just a few hours after the church fire, Lee posted that he’s “literally” put all of his and his family’s money into the church …Most notably is an eviction proceeding for the current residence that he shares with his new bride and their children. It was filed on Nov 6, 2014
The day after the fire, Lee set up a Gofundme account for the “Mike Brown Church ‘The Flood’”… He’s hoping to collect $500K. (It was later reduced to $200K which should be plenty to help rebuild the 2600 sq ft. church, pay off its $35,000 mortgage and who knows? Maybe have a big wedding and retire.)
Previous Security Problems
In March 2014 Lee’s church has a past break-in and was previously looted. Lee is featured on local news after chasing off would be thieves at the church. He posted about it on Facebook.
Lee claimed on August 10-11 that there were looters at his Church.
If Lee is telling the truth about a past break-in, previous looting and threats so, why was the church left unattended? He could’ve had hired private security, had church members there, or even open as a safe haven as many other churches did. If the FBI was aware, why weren’t they monitoring? If Lee was protesting that night, he would’ve known the mood of the crowd and that looting was likely. Where was he when the fire occurred at 11:45?
There’s a TitleMax two doors down. Does it have security cams? Or do other businesses in the area?
Pastor Lee and the Browns…
Carlton Lee claims he married Michael Brown’s father in July. He’s been very active in calling for the arrest of Darren Wilson.
He even held an event “Arrest Him Now!” at his church.
In an August 27 Facebook post, Lee sought donations for a trust fund for Mike Brown by saying the GoFundMe account–the one managed by the Brown’s family attorney–wasn’t legitimate. It’s an odd exchange… The lawyer’s GoFundMe account isn’t for legal expenses but for Brown family expenses so why create another account and attempt to discredit the first?
Lee’s creation of the GoFundMe account got some of his parishioners suspicious.
Timeline of Lee’s Whereabouts on the Church Fire (Updated)
Carlton Lee says in this interview that while he was in the area helping keep calm, he got the call from police that the church was on fire at 11:44pm. We don’t know if that’s true but that’s what he says.
8:42pm CST… Lee tweets that he just left being with Mike Brown, Sr. (The time stamp is from PST where GotNews.com editor-in-chief Charles C. Johnson is based.)
Michael Brown Sr. Is still calling for PEACE-just left from being with him
— Carlton R. LEE (@CARLTONRLEE) November 25, 2014
At 10:22 PM CST Lee tweets this.
Ferguson is literally on fire pic.twitter.com/ZOx15AGmBi
— Carlton R. LEE (@CARLTONRLEE) November 25, 2014
Lee retweeted this tweet. As does his wife Chanel.
At 12:43a, he tweets out this Instagram video clip from in front of the Ferguson PD labeled “going on now” …
http://instagram.com/p/vz0nKLwrHt/ (since deleted)
To get from where he was turned around just before McDonald’s to the courthouse he would’ve had to do a weird double back through the side streets.
At approximately 10:44pm, he tweets out another Instagram video called “buildings on fire”
Lee’s Instagram account has since been made private.
The building in the video is the Public Storage facility on Florissant to get there, he would have had to re-double back towards the McDonald’s. It’s five businesses down from McDonald’s.
He posts his third Instagram video at approximately 11:15 PM with simply #ferguson as the tweet… http://instagram.com/p/vz4YjnwrMv/
It’s shows the Advance Auto Parts store burning. It’s just a half mile from Public Storage but it takes him 30 mins.
This is his last tweet until a retweet the next day. He doesn’t mention the church fire on Twitter but he does post on Facebook about it at on Nov 25th a few hours after he says he was notified by PD.
Why would Lee take video of burning buildings before learning that his own church–his “baby”–was burned to the ground? Why wasn’t he trying to protect his church? Why no mention of it?
It looks like he was trying to create a record of his whereabouts that night.
The police and fire dispatch records would help determine when he shot those videos, based on the timing of the store fires. There was allegedly a three hour gap between when Lee left Michael Brown Sr. and when he got the call about the church fire. What was he doing in that time?
Money, Fame, and the Pulpit:
Lee has cashed in on his celebrity.
The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and CNN’s Anderson Cooper helped promote Lee.
Lee was recently compared to Martin Luther King Jr. at Yale’s Divinity School.
— Michael Morand (@MimoCT) January 13, 2015