Son of White Sheriff's Deputy Charged with Louisiana Black Church Fires

Sergio Conner
April 14, 2019

Roy Matthews had no knowledge of his son's alleged crimes, said St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz, who employs the father. Guidroz also said the suspect's father knew nothing of his son's involvement in the fires.

On the same day authorities say Matthews set fire to Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana, Matthews made a chilling post in a black metal artists Facebook group.

The 21-year-old is allegedly associated with a type of music known as "black metal" which promotes church burnings, authorities said.

Police have nabbed a suspect in the burning of Black churches in Louisiana and it has caused shock waves.

Firefighters and fire investigators respond to a fire at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church on April 4 in Opelousas, La.

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives work on Wednesday near the ruins of Mt. I can never give total condolences to these church communities for the losses of their places of worship. He's been identified as a local sheriff's deputy's son named Holden Matthews, 21.

"I don't know why this happened, and we don't need to jump to conclusions", said Hines, a member of the church for more than 40 years.

The Reverend Harry Richard, pastor of Greater Union Baptist Church, which was destroyed, said the arrest put him at ease and let him sleep at night.

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Yet Mr. Hines, and others connected to the churches, were careful not to automatically label the fires as racist acts.

A fourth fire on March 31 was reported more than 200 miles away at the predominantly white Vivian United Pentecostal Church in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, but authorities have not established a link to the St. Landry incidents.

"My church has a lot of history", the Rev. Gerald Toussaint of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church told The Daily Advertiser, noting that it was more than 140 years old. Pleasant Baptist Church, one of three black churches that recently burned down in Louisiana.

"We can now confirm all three of these fires are intentionally set and all three of these fires are related", State Fire Marshal Butch Browning told CNN. Since Trump has taken office, we've seen a rise in white supremacy and hate crimes - so much so that we issued letters to push both the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees of the House of Representatives to hold hearings for the resurgence of hate and raced-based crimes that are overcoming the nation.

NAACP president Derrick Johnson called the fires "domestic terrorism" in a statement on Thursday and said the incidents outlined an increasingly hostile racial climate nationwide.

Guidroz said hours of manpower, drones and old-fashioned detective work led them to Matthews.

Matthews' identity was revealed in a press conference at Landry Parish Sheriff Public Safety Complex in Opelousas, Louisiana, by Gov. John Bel Edwards. A firefighter also reported seeing the pickup near the burning church, the affidavit said. "As a effect, these houses of faith have historically been targets of violence".

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