US: Suspicious torching of three black churches spark investigation

A police officer attends a conference regarding St. Landry Church fires in Opelousas, U.S., April 4, 2019.

A police officer attends a press conference regarding St. Landry Church fires

LOUISIANA (US), April 7 (NNN-AGENCIES) — A trio of Louisiana’s Black churches have gone up in flame in a series of mysterious fires which police investigators say have occurred within the space of 10 days and one parish.

St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre was the first St. Landry Parish to go up in flames on March 26. This week, two others in Opelousas went up in smoke, the Greater Union on Tuesday and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church on Thursday.

In a statement, State Fire Marshal H. Browning said, “There is clearly something happening in this community.

“We believe these three fires are suspicious. We are falling short of talking about what caused the fires, falling short of saying they are related, however cognizant that there is a problem and no coincidence that there are three fires,” the fire marshal said.

Although all three fires contain some suspicious elements, they have not been classified yet, although they are considered crime scenes, Fire Marshall Spokeswoman Ashley Rodrigue said.

Browning explained, “Investigating a fire is a very lengthy process. It’s one of the most complicated and unconventional crime scenes you’ll ever enter because most of the evidence is burned away.”

For that reason, this week, Gov. John Bel Edwards, encouraged the public to assist investigators, saying, “Our churches are sacred, central parts of our communities and everyone should feel safe in their place of worship.

“We do not know the cause of these fires in St. Landry and Caddo parishes, but my heart goes out to each of the congregations and all of those who call these churches home,” he said.

Earnest Hines, a deacon at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, said, “You got to have a certain degree of anger because there’s no reason for this.

“You know the history of our country. During the civil rights struggle, they had all these incidents that would happen and sometimes that happens again,” he said. — NNN-AGENCIES


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