Suspect arrested in 'suspicious' fires at Louisiana black churches

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Authorities say a sheriff's deputy has turned his son in for arrest in connection to three fires at historically black churches in Louisiana. But though the arrest affidavit showed how they linked Matthews to the crime, federal, state and local authorities who gathered for a Thursday news conference at the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office weren't ready to discuss motive.

The 21-year-old is allegedly associated with a type of music known as "black metal" which promotes church burnings, authorities said.

Officials say the man arrested in connection to the burning of three historically black churches in Louisiana may have been influenced by black metal. The fire burned holes through the church's roof and left only most of its brick exterior standing the next day, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser reported. The maximum penalty for each counts is 15 years in prison.

Pastor Harry Richard of the Greater Union Baptist Church was happy to hear of the arrest, telling The Washington Post, "I felt relieved knowing that our congregation didn't have to worry anymore". The NAACP released a statement saying the attacks were acts of racially motivated "domestic terrorism". Black metal is an extreme sub-genre of heavy metal with lyrics that often espouse Satanism and Paganism. "We need to let them investigate, let the evidence come out".

Matthews was charged with three counts of simple arson of a religious building.

Guidroz says deputy Roy Matthews was stunned when learning his son was the suspect, and when the Sheriff relayed that news to him, the father hung his head.

"This community is safe again", he said at a news conference. On April 2, a fire was reported at the Greater Union Baptist Church in the 1400 block of Hwy 742 in Opelousas.

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Prior to the arrest, the association announced a service of unity and prayer for church families affected by the church burnings scheduled at 2 p.m., Sunday, April 14, at Little Zion Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana. After determining Walmart was one of the few sellers of that two-gallon can in the area, detectives eventually found that Matthews purchased one such gas can, a pack of shop towels and a lighter at Walmart just a couple hours before the fire at St. Mary Baptist.

"Our churches are sacred, central parts of our communities and everyone should feel safe in their place of worship".

"He's shocked and hurt, as any father would be", Guidroz 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.

Johnson noted that the fires had occurred within the same time span of another suspicious blaze in Tennessee, where a social justice training center was burned and tagged with anti-Semitic slurs. "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.

"My church has a lot of history", the Rev. Gerald Toussaint of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church told the Daily Advertiser, noting that it was more than 140 years old.

State and local police, the Fire Marshal's Office, FBI, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were involved in the investigation.