Washington – Authorities in Louisiana detained the son of a sheriff’s agent accused of setting fire to three churches frequented by African-American parishioners in recent weeks.
Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested Wednesday after being identified as the one responsible for the fires in the face of his return to action, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Thursday.
“It has been especially painful because it reminds us of a very dark past of fear and intimidation,” Edwards told a news conference.
Matthews is the son of an agent of the sheriff of the parish (county in Louisiana) of St. Landry, who knew nothing apparently.
The agent “is surprised and hurt”, explained at the same press conference the sheriff of the parish, Bobby Guidroz, who said he is “a great” police and one of his “best friends.”
The detainee is accused of three crimes of fire to religious buildings, which could carry up to 15 years in prison each.
Matthews had sparked the fires between March 26 and April 4 of the three Baptist churches in Port Barre and Opelousas, small towns in the south of the state.
The authorities are now investigating Matthews’ motives, which, if they were racist, could constitute new allegations at the federal level for hate crimes.
For now, researchers have indicated that the detainee was a fan of black metal, an extreme subgenre of heavy metal that in other parts of the world has been linked to the burning of churches.
This episode of recent days in Louisiana has reminded of the frequent attacks against African-American churches in the Southern states during the Reconstruction period in the late 19th century and also in parallel to the civil rights movement.
Although more sporadic, in recent years these churches have remained the focus of attacks.
The worst of these attacks occurred in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015 at the hands of the young supremacist Dylann Roof, who shot dead nine African-American parishioners. EFEUSA