Black metal fan arrested in connection with Louisiana church fires

Black metal fan arrested in connection with Louisiana church fires

Black metal fan arrested in connection with Louisiana church fires

Updated at 2:30 p.m.

Police have nabbed a suspect in the burning of Black churches in Louisiana and it has caused shock waves.

Holden Matthews is a 21-year-old white man who's been arrested in the fires and faces three counts of simple arson of a religious building.

"I don't know who's doing it or why they're doing it, but I don't want to be the one to inject race into it", he said.

Governor John Bel Edwards is in Opelousas this morning as the State Fire Marshal's office details its investigation into fires at three black churches. "Let me be clear - these were evil acts".

"We can now confirm all three of these fires are intentionally set and all three of these fires are related", State Fire Marshal Butch Browning told CNN. The maximum penalty for each count is 15 years in prison. Guidroz said the elder Matthews "broke down" when he called him into his office to inform him of the arrest.

Previous rumors claimed Matthews' father, Deputy Roy Matthews, took his own son into custody in connection with the crimes. Officials said Thursday they had no evidence linking the Caddo fire to the other three. "Train up your children in the way they should go", he said. Surveillance video from businesses and homes near the churches, and on the roads to and from each fire scene, repeatedly showed a vehicle that was consistent with the beige pickup that belonged to Matthews' father. Watch a news report on the burnings below. He had a project dubiously named "Vodka Vultures".

Officials, including those from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the investigation was ongoing.

Matthews is accused of setting fires that destroyed St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church between March 26 and April 4.

The document also says Global Positioning System tracking through cellphone tower data shows Matthews was in the area of all three church fires.

Gerald Toussaint, pastor at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, joined officials at Thursday's news conference.

No one was reported injured in the fires, which started when the buildings were empty.

In 2015, a white-supremacist gunman opened fire on a prayer group at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., killing nine black people. During Reconstruction and the civil rights movement, black churches were targeted with fires, bombings and threats.

Heidi Beirich, who oversees the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project and its hate map, tells NPR that the deep South still feels deep scars from its past. "It has an association in history with church burnings in other parts of the world". Attacks on Black churches, using fire and other forms of violence, have always been used to intimidate the Black community and impede progress.

The head of the FBI's field office in New Orleans said that investigators are looking into whether the fires were "bias motivated".

Community members have vowed to rebuild the incinerated structures and come together, saying their faith will not waver.

In addition, cellphone tower data showed Matthews was in the area of all three fires.

"I'm very proud of the investigative effort that has lead to this arrest", Rep. Clay Higgins said in a statement to KATC.

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