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Suspect arrested in 'suspicious' fires at black churches

Suspect arrested in 'suspicious' fires at black churches

He had attempted to disguise the arson as a hate crime.

A statement from the fire marshal's office said any "potential motivations of hate" in the fires are still being investigated by federal authorities.

Browning said there were no indications that anyone else was involved and the danger to churches was over.

"This community is safe again", he said at a news conference.

Pressed on the possible "black metal" link, Browning said: "We believe there is a relation there with that".

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. "It has been especially painful because it reminds us of a very dark past of intimidation and fear", he said.

Pastor Gerald Toussaint of Mount Pleasant Baptist church praised the law enforcement community for bringing a swift resolution to the crisis.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, the state fire marshal, and other federal and state law enforcement officials held a news conference Thursday to provide an update on the fires at the three historically African-American churches in St. Landry Parish.

The Florida Department of Financial Services has also been assisting in the investigation, having sent seven fire investigators to the scene.

And one church leader expressed concerns that the threat may not be over yet.

According to his arrest warrant, Matthews used his debit card and ID to purchase a gas can, a 10-pack of automotive shop towels and a lighter on or around 25 March.

(Louisiana Office Of State Fire Marshal/Reuters) A Louisiana State Fire Marshall vehicle is seen outside the fire-destroyed St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, Louisiana, March 26, 2019, in this picture obtained from social media. Officials are continuing to vet different motives.

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Firefighters and fire investigators at a fire at Mt Pleasant Baptist Church, in Opelousas, Louisiana earlier in April.

The charred remains of a Scepter-branded, 2-gallon gas can ultimately led investigators to Matthews, according to a court affidavit. Local sheriff Bobby Guidroz denied a report that the father turned in his son.

"He broke down", Guidroz said.

"He's shocked and hurt, as any father would be", Guidroz said. He did not elaborate. Authorities said that was not true, but that the elder Matthews did "help facilitate" in Holden's arrest by directing the suspect away from his home to an area where deputies could safely make their approach.

The collaboration on this case was comprised of around 100 individuals primarily from the SFM, ATF, FBI and Louisiana State Police. Each church catered to an African American congregation.

"It's not a super tiny city", Brent Swann, a white, 24-year-old employee at a auto rental agency said hours before the arrest.

"My church has a lot of history".

Black metal music is a genre of music that is anti-Christian and satanic.

A Facebook page that purportedly belongs to the 21-year-old features a photo of him with the words "black metal" spray-painted on a wall.

Matthews commented on memes about the far-right political activist and black metal music icon Varg Vikernes who was convicted in 1994 for burning three churches in Norway.

The burnt ruins of the Greater Union Baptist Church, one of three that recently burned down in St. Landry Parish, in Opelousas, La., on April 10.