photo credit: Kratka Photography // Shutterstock
In Louisiana, over the past few weeks, three historically black churches have been burned down.
St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre burned on March 26, followed by Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 2 and, two days later, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the same town.
The suspect in the arson fires has been identified as Holden Matthews, 21, who is the son of the local sheriff’s deputy. Law enforcement say the man may have been influenced by “black metal” music and “its association history with church burnings.” Matthews has been charged with 3 counts of simple arson on a religious building. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years.
“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,” Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters. “These were evil acts. But let me be clear about this, hate is not a Louisiana value.”
“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 said. Federal officials are looking into whether the fires represent a hate crime.
Matthews has no history of violence or prior arrests, officials said.
Written by Clarke Jones