Three predominately Black churches in one south Louisiana parish burned to the ground, over the course of 10 days. The FBI has launched an investigation into the string of fires after “suspicious” elements were found, The New York Times reports.
State Fire Marshal H. Browning released a statement in the wake of the fires. “There is clearly something happening in this community,” he said. “That is why it is imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is.”
The first fire was set on March 26 at the St. Mary Baptist Church. Greater Union Baptist Church was burned on April 2. The Mount Pleasant Baptist church caught fire two days later. All three fires occurred in St. Landry Parish and each church was at least 100 years old.
A fourth fire in Caddo Parish, about three-hours north of where the other three fires occurred, happened on Sunday was found to be “intentionally set.” Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal said, “But just as we haven’t connected the three in St. Landry, we haven’t connected the one in Caddo.”
Jeff Nowakowski, a spokesman for the New Orleans field division of the federal Beureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), confirmed the FBI and the ATF’s involvement with the ongoing investigation.
Sheriff Bobby Guidroz of St. Landry Parish said investigators were working willing to do “whatever it takes” to keep the citizens and churchgoers in his parish safe. “We’re doing everything we can, collectively, to solve this crime.”
According to The New York Times, investigators have yet to “rule out the possibility of arson, or the possibility that the fires are related.”