Associated Press/Gerald Herbert
- The son of a local sheriff’s deputy was arrested Wednesday evening in connection to a series of fires that destroyed three historically black churches in Louisiana.
- Holden Matthews, 21, was charged with three counts of simple arson of a religious building.
- Though Matthews’ father wasn’t the one to turn him in, Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told reporters that his father assisted in the arrest by getting his son away from their home so authorities could arrest him without incident.
- Investigators said they’re still determining a motive for the fires, but are probing Matthews’ connection with the "black metal" music genre.
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Louisiana authorities have arrested the son of a local sheriff’s deputy in connection to a series of fires that destroyed three historically black churches, stoked fears of hate crimes, and even the suspicion of "domestic terrorism."
Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested Wednesday evening and charged with three counts of simple arson of a religious building, investigators announced in a Thursday press conference. In recent weeks, hundreds of local, state, and federal investigators had descended on Louisiana’s St. Landry Parish to work on the case.
Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told reporters that Matthews was caught due to the "basic, old-fashioned detective work" of his team, but that Matthews’ father, Roy Matthews, assisted by drawing his son away from their home so authorities could arrest him without incident.
"We just wanted to make sure we got him out of an environment he felt safe in," Guidroz said. "It was a team effort."
Guidroz said Roy Matthews was "in terrible shape" after learning of his son’s alleged involvement.
"Holden’s father is an employee of mine. A fine man. He was shocked and hurt, as any father would be," Guidroz said.
But Guidroz shot down media reports that suggested the deputy had turned in his own son.
"This case was solved with boots on the ground and butts in the air," he said.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning told reporters that investigators rushed to arrest Matthews before any other fires broke out, believing "other crimes were imminent."
"This was an attack on the house of God," Browning said.
Investigators are still searching for a motive, but the Louisiana Office of the State Fire Marshal said in a statement that authorities are looking into "a possible connection with a genre of music called ‘black metal’ and its associated history with church burnings in other parts of the world, which have been documented in movies and books."
According to a Facebook page that appears to belong to Matthews, he was the lead singer and songwriter for a band named Vodka Vultures, and followed a number of black metal musicians and bands.
Screenshot via Facebook
The first of the fires occurred March 26, when a blaze tore through the St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, reducing the building to rubble.
Within just 10 days, two more fires had brought down the Greater Union Baptist Church and the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, both in Opelousas. No one was injured in the fires.
The president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, said in a statement that the fires reflected "emboldened racial rhetoric and tension" spreading throughout the US.
"What is happening in Tennessee and Louisiana is domestic terrorism and we must not turn a blind eye to any incident where people are targeted because of the color of their skin or their faith," Johnson said.
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