Church fires arrest, “A suspect has been identified”.
Authorities in southern Louisiana on Wednesday arrested a suspect in a spate of fires that have burned three black churches in St. Landry Parish since last month, according to federal prosecutors.
“A suspect has been identified in connection with the three church burnings in Opelousas, Louisiana, and is in state custody,” said U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office, ATF, and FBI are working with state and local law enforcement and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the victims and those St. Landry Parish residents affected by these despicable acts.”
The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, which has led the investigation into the blazes, declined to comment on the arrest. Multiple local media outlets in Louisiana have identified the suspect as a 21-year-old man who is the son of a St. Landry Parish deputy. Authorities plan to release more information on Thursday morning.
Local leaders praised the arrest for bringing an end to several frightening weeks for residents as hundreds of investigators worked with federal authorities to determine who had ignited the fires.
“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,” Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., said in a statement sent to KATC.
When Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana, caught fire on April 4, consuming the church’s interior, it was the third predominantly black church to burn down in St. Landry Parish in the span of 10 days, setting local residents on edge. On March 26, flames reduced St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre to just a few walls and piles of rubble. And on April 2, a blaze struck the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas.
Authorities still have not determined a motive and have declined to tell residents whether they believe race was a factor in the crimes, according to The Advocate. On Sunday, State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning told worshipers at Mount Pleasant that about 200 state investigators were working the case alongside officials from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI.