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Police Have Just Detained A Suspect In The Louisiana Church Fires

Police Have Just Detained A Suspect In The Louisiana Church Fires
Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal/Facebook

St. Landry Parish authorities have an arsonist responsible for the series of Louisiana church fires in custody.

Three historically black churches in the St. Landry Parish, about 30 miles north of Lafayette, have burned down within ten days since March 26 in which Governor John Bel Edwards called the fires "a very dark past of intimidation and fear."

The NAACP believes the fires were racially motivated and labeled them as "domestic terrorism."

On Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., 21-year-old Holden Matthews was taken into custody following an investigation into the blazes, according to KATC.

Matthews was identified as the son of St. Landry Parish Deputy Roy Matthews.

Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal explained on their Facebook page that investigators "determined all three fires were intentionally set. Several pieces of evidence, both from the scenes and from technological resources, have confirmed Matthews as the primary suspect."

According to a court affidavit, federal ATF agents found a Scepter-branded, 2-gallon gas can left at Mount Pleasant Baptist that was tied to Matthews.

Matthews had purchased two gas cans, a 10-pack of automotive cloths and a lighter from Walmart, three hours before the first fire. Receipts turned in to investigators indicated the items were purchased by a debit card under the name, Holden Matthews.

A Ford pickup truck, similar to the one registered to Matthews's father Roy, was also captured by surveillance cameras at the Greater Union Baptist Church moments before the fire started.

While investigators are still determining a motive, they did find Holden's social media activity tied him to black metal, a musical genre associated to the historic burning black churches in other parts of the world.

Congressman Clay Higgins issued a statement to KATC.

"I'm very proud of the investigative effort that has lead to this arrest. I'm prayerful that we can close this horrific chapter and begin to heal. I'm especially uplifted by the Christian Community right now. God bless us one and all."

On March 26, authorities responded to the blaze at St. Mary Baptist Church in the 100 block of Saqueget Road in Port Barre. The second fire was reported at Greater Union Baptist Church in the 1400 block of Hwy 742 in Opelousas on April 2.

The third fire was reported on April 4 at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the 3900 block of Highway 182 in Opelousas.

These hate crimes are just another example of domestic terrorism influenced by the Trump Administration.

Governor Edwards tried to make sense of the arsonist's motives and told reporters that Louisiana will not tolerate hate.

"I don't know what this young man's motive was, I don't know what was in his heart, but I can say it cannot be justified or rationalized. These were evil acts. But let me be clear about this, hate is not a Louisiana value."

State Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning stated that Matthews faces three counts of simple arson on a religious building. Each count carries a maximum of 15 years penalty.