Son of sheriff's deputy burned 3 black churches, authorities say

Son of sheriff's deputy burned 3 black churches, authorities say

Holden Matthews, 21, who is the son of a St Landry Parish officer, was arrested on Wednesday, said officials.

KATC-TV identified the suspect as 21-year-old Holden Matthews-the son of a St. Landry Parish deputy.

Matthews was interested in "black metal" music, authorities said, which has been linked to notorious church fires in Norway.

Browning said no one was injured because the fires started in the middle of the night while the churches were vacant.

Federal authorities are investigating whether the arson attacks constitute hate crimes.

Noting the history of black church burnings in the South, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the current episode was "especially painful because it reminds us of a very dark past of intimidation and fear". Each count beings a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Though the investigation is ongoing, Browning said that "we are extremely, unequivocally confident that we have the man responsible for these crimes", adding that the quick arrest "averted what possibly could have been other crimes". "These were evil acts".

St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre was destroyed in a suspicious fire on March 26, which led authorities to begin an investigation to determine the cause of the blaze.

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.

"He was shocked and hurt like any father would be", said Sheriff Bobby Guidroz about his conversation with Deputy Matthews.

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Officials did not immediately specify a motive in the three fires. "It's like the sixties again", said Earnest Hines, a deacon at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church - the site of the third fire.

The investigative effort included assistance from the U.S. Attorney's Office, ATF, FBI and state and local law enforcement.

A news conference was scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, according to the Louisiana fire marshal's office. The three churches are predominantly black churches.

Fire Marshal Butch Browning says multiple agencies teamed up with "boots on the ground" to get to the bottom of the fires.

Surveillance video also captured Matthews leave the store in a pick-up truck similar to the one spotted outside the churches around the time of each fire. According to the outlet, members of the two Opelousas congregations worshipped with other local churches on the first Sunday after their chapels burned down.

"Roy Matthews is one of my best friends, a great deputy", Guidroz said.

An Associated Press reporter was turned away Thursday from what was believed to be the home the suspect shared with his parents.

Earlier this week, the NAACP said the church burnings were "domestic terrorism", targeting people due to their skin color and faith.

"As a outcome, these houses of faith have historically been the targets of violence", Johnson continued.

"What is happening in Tennessee and Louisiana is domestic terrorism and we must not turn a blind eye to any incident where people are targeted because of the color of their skin and their faith", Johnson said.

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