The first fire occurred on March 26 at the St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, the second on Tuesday when the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas caught fire. Followed by Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas which caught fire on Thursday.
The churches were empty at the time of the fires and no injuries were reported. Authorities said that they are investigating to determine the motives of the alleged perpetrators and if the fires were connected.
Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning said the fires are “suspicious” and added that “If you’re going to turn to a house of God, turn to it for resurrection,” he said.
“There certainly is a commonality,” Browning said “Whether that leads to a person or persons or groups, we just don’t know. And that’s not unusual for us not to know at this point.”
Browning said there are several other patterns connecting the fires in addition to the targets being all black Baptist churches in the same parish.
The ATF and the FBI are both involved in the investigation. Over 40 people from the marshal’s office are currently working on the case, saying it is “extremely active right now.”
Religious leaders gathered on Thursday to talk about the fires and support the affected churches which are well over 100 years old.
Other parish’s churches are currently being provided additional security, according to St. Landry Sheriff Bobby Guidroz.
Sheriff Bobby Guidroz promised to do “whatever it takes to prevent these fires” and to “try to catch this individual.”
“We have a lot of churches in this parish. Lots of churches,” Guidrozsaid. “We’re going to take it one day at a time and try to provide the security that they need.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that “Our churches are sacred, central parts of our communities and everyone should feel safe in their place of worship.”
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