Son of St. Landry deputy arrested in fires at historically black churches

Son of St. Landry deputy arrested in fires at historically black churches: report

Son of St. Landry deputy arrested in fires at historically black churches: report

A firefighter also reported seeing the pickup near the burning church, the affidavit said.

"The arrest of Holden Matthews for the horrific burnings of Black churches in Louisiana is just another example of the hate fueled times that we live in". He also says Matthews had been discouraged in recent months as Bryyn said he needed to improve the quality of his recordings. Matthews is white. Some locals were hesitant at first to suggest a racist motivation.

The NAACP has labeled the fires "domestic terrorism", adding the "spike in church burnings in Southern states is a reflection of the emboldened racial rhetoric and tension spreading across the country".

The man arrested is 21-year-old Holden Matthews.

At the news conference, however, Browning, the fire marshal, expressed confidence that the danger to churches had ended.

A fourth church in Caddo Parish, about three hours north-west, also burned over the same span, but authorities said Thursday that they believe that fire was unrelated.

In addition, mobile-phone tower data showed Matthews was in the area of all three fires. Matthews apparently drove the truck to buy the gas can and other items, according to the court documents.

The alleged arsons started with St. Mary Baptist Church getting burned down in the town of Port Barre on March 26. Matthews is charged with three counts of simple arson on a religious building.

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St Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz confirmed that the suspect was the son of deputy Roy Matthews, whom he described as an excellent employee who knew nothing of his son's actions.

"There's still people that need to be helped, there's still ministry that has to be done, so we can't let this setback stop us from doing what God has initially called us to do", said Pastor Kyle Sylvester of St. Mary's Baptist Church.

(Louisiana Office Of State Fire Marshal/Reuters) Louisiana State Fire Marshall vehicles are seen outside the Greater Union Baptist Church during a fire, in Opelousas, Louisiana, April 2, 2019, in this picture obtained from social media.

"My church has a lot of history", the Rev. Gerald Toussaint of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church told The Daily Advertiser, noting that it was more than 140 years old.

A red petrol can recovered at one of the churches was sold at Walmart locations, and the company's investigators found that the same type of petrol can, automotive cloths and a lighter were bought March 25 at a store in Opelousas. Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas respectively caught fire, according to a statement from the State Fire Marshal's Office.

As authorities investigated the St. Landry fires, churches' leaders were resilient, though baffled by the attacks.

In 2015, a white-supremacist gunman opened fire on a prayer group at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine black people. "What could make a person do that to a church?" he told the Advertiser.

Authorities are expected to announce more details about the arrest at a press conference at 10 a.m. local time Thursday.

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