Police arrested a Louisiana sheriff deputy’s son Thursday and are charging him with the burning of three Louisiana churches with mainly black congregations.
Officials say that the suspect, Holden Matthews of St. Landry Parish, is a 21-year-old white male from a town about an hour from Baton Rouge, according to NPR. Louisiana State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning told reporters at a news conference Thursday that Matthews has been charged on three counts of “simple arson on a religious building” which can amount to 15 years per charge.
Louisiana State Fire Marshall:
“An Opelousas man has been taken into custody in connection with arson fires at three churches in St. Landry Parish. Holden Matthews, 21, was booked into the St. Landry Parish Jail on three counts of Simple Arson of a Religious Building.” pic.twitter.com/Qnf2C71rGO
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) April 11, 2019
“I don’t know what this young man’s motive was, I don’t know what was in his heart,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards at the news conference, according to NPR. “But I can say it cannot be justified or rationalized. These were evil acts.”
Matthew’s father, who participated in Matthew’s arrest, was “shocked and hurt” and knew nothing about his son’s activities, according to authorities. When Matthew’s father was called in to the police station to learn what his son had done, St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told NPR that he broke down.
Authorities said that “physical evidence from the crime scenes” and “technological evidence” made it clear that Matthews was the suspect, according to NPR.
Matthews reportedly has connections to “pagan” and black metal Facebook pages, according to The Daily Beast. He also commented on two photos by former neo-Nazi Varg Vikernes, a metal musician who spent 15 years in jail for killing another musician and burning churches in Norway.
The pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Gerald Toussaint said: “We’ve suffered, but I think it has a higher cause. Even though we’ve lost our church—our building, our building—look who’s been brought together. Our country has to find out that the God we serve does not look on the outside. He sees the heart.”
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