Suspect arrested in 'suspicious' fires at Louisiana black churches

Firefighters respond to a fire at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas on Thursday

But Holden Matthews, the white, 21-year-old son of a Louisiana sheriff's deputy, was behind bars Thursday, accused of torching three century old African American churches during a 10-day period in and around Opelousas.

The burnt ruins of the Greater Union Baptist Church, one of three that recently burned down in St. Landry Parish, in Opelousas, La., on April 10.

While investigators were still exploring motives, Browning said that Matthews had "a relationship with a type of music called black metal", an extreme subgenre of heavy metal.

Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested Wednesday for fires set to three historically black churches in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, according to KATC. He thanked investigators and said donations have been pouring in for the rebuilding of the churches.

A pickup truck which investigators believe was driven by the suspect was caught on CCTV leaving the auto park of Greater Union Baptist Church, one of the buildings that was set on fire, shortly before it caught the blaze took hold.

Authorities charged Matthews with three counts of simple arson of a religious building. "Butch" Browning speaks during a press conference addressing three recent church fires in the parish Thursday, April 4, 2019, at the St. Landry Parish Training Center in Opelousas, La. Black churches were burned across the country in the 1950s and '60s.

One local elected official said the fires appeared intentional and the NAACP categorized them as "domestic terrorism".

The head of the FBI's field office in New Orleans said that investigators are looking into whether the fires were "bias motivated". Since Trump has taken office, we've seen a rise in white supremacy and hate crimes - so much so that we issued letters to push both the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees of the House of Representatives to hold hearings for the resurgence of hate and raced-based crimes that are overcoming the nation.

Each church catered to an African American congregation in a rural setting, and each was rendered a charred disaster scene as a result of intense flames.

"This case was solved with boots on the ground and butts in the air", Guidroz said, though he added Roy Matthews helped direct his son away from his home to make it easier for the arrest. A Thursday news conference at the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office is planned. "He was shocked and hurt as any father would be ..."

Harry Richard - pastor of Greater Union Baptist Church, the site of the second fire - said he's relieved about the arrest. And fires at black churches - especially those in the South - immediately bring to mind such racist attacks.

Guidroz says deputy Roy Matthews was stunned when learning his son was the suspect, and when the Sheriff relayed that news to him, the father hung his head. The cop's son who is now under arrest for burning down black churches is into the neo-pagan Viking/Death Metal scene.

State and local police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were also involved in the investigation.

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