Louisiana church fire mystery has not yet turned up any leads or suspects, officials say

The fires that have burned down three Black churches and damaged one other have left no clues and police are no closer to capturing a suspect

Louisiana
Louisiana State Fire Marshall Deputies respond to a blaze at Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, La. (Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal)


 

Law enforcement is continuing its investigation into the fires that burned down three predominantly Black Baptist churches and damaged another in St. Landry Parish, La., the Lafayette Daily Advertiser is reporting.

Here’s what is known now about the fires that have taken place in the last three weeks:

  • The first took place at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, La., on March 26th; the second took place at Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, La., on April 2; the third happened at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church along a highway south of Opelousas on April 4.

READ MORE: Four historically Black churches in a Louisiana set on fire in 10 Days

  • Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning told the Advertiser there are several “patterns” at the crime scenes for the three churches. “Whether that leads to a person or persons or groups, we just don’t know,” he said. “And that’s not unusual for us not to know at this point.”

 

  • The churches continue to meet in different locations, the Advertiser reports. Mount Pleasant has gathered at another church led by its pastor, St. Mary members met at a storefront and Greater parishioners met at a building in Opelousas.

READ MORE: Six black churches burned within seven days, FBI investigating

  • Up to 200 people from the federal level on down have been working on the investigation. Along with the state fire marshal, the probe also include the FBI, the Louisiana Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, the St. Landry Fire District 3 and the Opelousas Police Department, according to the Advertiser. St. Landry Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told the news organization that he will do “whatever it takes to prevent these fires” and “try to catch this individual.”

 

  •  U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., released a video on Sunday urging the culprit or culprits to turn themselves in. “If you participated in this, you have succumbed to evil,” the lawmaker said as he stood in front of what is left of St. Mary’s. “Powers of Principality are controlling your life,” Higgins said.

Although the investigation is continuing, no suspects are in custody yet and authorities still do not have a motive. It is also not known if racism is a factor in the setting of the fires.