"Suspicious" Fires Destroy Three Historically Black Churches In Louisiana
All three church fires occurred in 10 days.
A Louisiana parish has lost three historically black churches to fires, with both FBI and Louisiana authorities investigating to see if they’re connected.
In St. Landry Parish, the St. Mary Baptist Church in the community of Port Barre, and Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, were all destroyed by fire according to Reuters. All three churches were well over a hundred years old.
The fires occurred between March 26 and Thursday. It’s unknown if the fires were intentionally set but State Fire Marshall Butch Browning said that the string of blazes is “suspicious.”
Browning also said that certain “patterns” had been discovered in the fires but it was too early to conclude if one person started them or not.
“There certainly is commonality and whether that leads to a person or persons or groups, we don’t know,” Browning said.
In a separate report with NBC News, Browning noted the history of burning black churches as an intimidation tactic, and his want to “quickly get answers.”
“We know the past and we know the history and it certainly drives our investigation. I think it brings more passion to our investigation to quickly get answers,” Browning said. “We’re hunting them down right now and we’re going to find them. We’re gonna bring them to justice.”
At the moment, the the fires are not being treated as potential hate crimes, although Browning said, “If the hate crime definition was violated, we will certainly vet those things out,” as the investigation continued.