Suspect arrested in 'suspicious' fires at black churches

accreditation
The burnt ruins of the St. Mary Baptist Church, one of three that recently burned down in St. Landry Parish, are seen in Port Barre. (Gerald Herbert, AP)
The burnt ruins of the St. Mary Baptist Church, one of three that recently burned down in St. Landry Parish, are seen in Port Barre. (Gerald Herbert, AP)

Authorities have arrested a person in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana, a federal prosecutor said.

US Attorney David C Joseph announced late on Wednesday that the suspect is in state custody, and said federal agents stand shoulder to shoulder with the victims of "these despicable acts". A Thursday news conference at the St Landry Parish Sheriff's Office is planned.

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 African American congregations.

The churches were empty at the time of the fires, and no one was injured.

Fire Marshal H "Butch" Browning, who declared all three fires suspicious, said "If you're going to turn to a house of God, turn to it for resurrection."

The investigation was joined by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and many people from state agencies in Louisiana.

The Rev Harry Richard of Greater Union Baptist Church told the Advocate newspaper last week that he didn't want people to panic or leap to conclusions while investigators were doing their work.

"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.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
President Ramaphosa has punted the idea of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for South Africans. This is:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
The right thing to do. We desperately need more South Africans vaccinated to prevent further mutations and restore normality in our lives.
70% - 12285 votes
A risky strategy. Compulsory vaccinations may have unintended consequences and damage our rollout campaign.
30% - 5218 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
15.81
+0.2%
Rand - Pound
20.93
+0.3%
Rand - Euro
17.84
+0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.27
+0.1%
Rand - Yen
0.14
+0.3%
Gold
1,788.60
+0.2%
Silver
22.45
-0.2%
Palladium
1,855.71
+0.1%
Platinum
963.50
+0.6%
Brent Crude
75.44
+3.2%
Top 40
66,210
-0.5%
All Share
72,641
-0.4%
Resource 10
69,214
-1.3%
Industrial 25
95,957
-0.1%
Financial 15
14,237
+0.3%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE