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Son of Louisiana officer arrested over black church fires

ARRESTED: Holden Matthews (Image: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshall)

THE SON of a Louisiana police officer has been arrested and charged in relation to fires at three black churches.

Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with three counts of simple arson of a religious building.

The incidents took place between March 26 and April 4 at three different Baptist churches.

Matthews’ father was the one who informed the St Landry Parish deputy of his son’s alleged involvement in the crimes.

In a statement, the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshall, said: “Investigators have determined all three fires were intentionally set. Several pieces of evidence, both from the scenes and from technological resources, have confirmed Matthews as the primary suspect.”

Investigators are continuing to look into Matthews’ motives but said there was a possible link between his actions and the “black metal” genre of music.

“At this time, the investigative team is still vetting several potential motives. However, information investigators have uncovered, and that Matthews has offered, suggests a possible connection with a genre of music called “black metal” and its associated history with church burnings in other parts of the world, which have been documented in movies and books,” the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshall said.

No one was killed or injured as a result of the fires. However, comparisons have been drawn between the incidents of arson and the violence of the civil rights era.

Arson attacks on black churches were commonplace during the Jim Crow era.

In a statement, the NAACP called on the government to hold hearings on the resurgence of hate and raced-based crimes which it said have increased since Donald Trump became president.

“The arrest of Holden Matthews for the horrific burnings of Black churches in Louisiana is just another example of the hate-fueled times that we live in. In African-American communities in the South, church burnings are historically linked to expressions of racism and domestic terrorism. This is the same domestic terrorism that has been the hammer and chisel used to chip away at the humanity of Black Americans and the suppression of our political power,” it said.

“I, and all of the investigators involved in this, have been emotionally committed to this case, not only because of the significance of these churches, but also the threat of additional fires,” state fire marshall H Browning said.

John Bel Edwards, the governor of Louisiana, said: “It’s especially painful because it reminds us of a very dark past of intimidation and fear.”

“These were evil acts. Hate has no place in Louisiana,” he added.

A pickup truck which investigators believe was driven by the suspect was caught on CCTV leaving the car park of Greater Union Baptist Church, one of the buildings that was set on fire, shortly before it caught the blaze took hold.

According to a court affidavit, the same vehicle was later captured driving past the scene and slowing down.

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