VERONA — An overnight church fire is being investigated as a bias incident.

Verona police responded to a fire alarm at The Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church on Lakeside Avenue at around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

Officers "observed a heavy smoke condition" at the church, according to officials.

After the fire was quickly extinguished, investigators and firefighters determined that the fire was deliberately set, and that it had multiple points of origin.

Nearly an hour after police first became aware of the fire, a male identified as 42-year-old Verona resident Elliot Bennett walked into the Verona police station, according to the prosecutor's office. He was then charged for the incident.

Specifically, Bennett was charged with bias intimidation, burglary, aggravated arson, weapons offenses, and desecration of venerated objects.

Police say they are still investigating the incident.

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