The Latest: Church fire suspect's father is sheriff's deputy

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The Latest: Church fire suspect's father is sheriff's deputy
Louisiana State Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning speaks during a press conference addressing three recent church fires in the parish Thursday, April 4, 2019, at the St. Landry Parish Training Center 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) — The Latest on fires at black churches in Louisiana. (all times local):

10:30 a.m.

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz says the father of the suspect arrested in the fires at three black Louisiana churches is a sheriff’s deputy in his department.

Matthew Holden, a 21-year-old white man, has been arrested in the fires and faces three counts of simple arson of a religious building.

At a news conference, Sheriff Guidroz disputed reports that Matthews’ father turned his son in. Guidroz also said the suspect’s father knew nothing of his son’s involvement in the fires.

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.

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10:15 a.m.

Authorities say they’re investigating hate as a motive in the fires at three black churches in southern Louisiana.

The suspect has been identified as Holden Matthews, a 21-year-old white man.

At a Thursday news conference, State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said the threat to the community “is gone now.” He also called the fires “an attack on our God and our religion.”

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.

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10:05 a.m.

The suspect arrested in a string of fires at historically black churches in southern Louisiana has been identified as a 21-year-old white man.

According to a news release, Holden Matthews faces three counts of simple arson of a religious building.

At a news conference, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said “these were evil acts.”

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.

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5:25 a.m.

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.