Opelousas, L.A. (AP) – Authorities say they’re investigating hate as a motive in the fires at three black churches in southern Louisiana.
The suspect has been identified as Holden Matthews, a 21-year-old white man.
At a Thursday news conference, State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said the threat to the community “is gone now.” He also called the fires “an attack on our God and our religion.”
The first fire torched the St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre last month. Days later, the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas were burned. Each was more than 100 years old, with mostly black congregations.
The churches were empty at the time of the fires, and no one was injured.