Suspect arrested in 'suspicious' fires at black churches

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Suspect arrested in 'suspicious' fires at black churches
Firefighters and fire investigators respond to a fire at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Opelousas, La. Authorities in southern Louisiana are investigating a string of "suspicious" fires at three African American churches in recent days. Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning said it wasn't clear whether the fires in St. Landry Parish are connected and he declined to get into specifics of what the investigation had yielded so far but described the blazes as "suspicious." (Leslie Westbrook/The Advocate via AP)

OPELOUSAS, La. (AP) — U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph says authorities have arrested a person in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in Louisiana.

Joseph announced late Wednesday that the suspect is in state custody, and said federal agents stand shoulder to shoulder with the victims of “these despicable acts.” A Thursday press conference at the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office is planned.

The first fire torched the St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre last month. Days later, the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas were burned. Each was more than 100 years old, with mostly black congregations.

The churches were empty at the time of the fires, and no one was injured. Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning said all three were suspicious.