A St. Louis man was arrested and charged with arson for two of seven fires at predominantly African-American churches in the area.
According to reports, 35-year-old David Lopez Jackson was charged in connection to fires at Ebenezer Lutheran Church and New Life Missionary Baptist Church. Jackson is also a suspect in the investigation into the other five fires — two in the nearby town of Jennings, Missouri, and three in St. Louis. Five of the congregations are reportedly primarily black while one is mixed and the other is white.
The fires were set between Oct. 8 and Oct. 22.
A hate-crime investigation was launched following the fires to determine if they were racially or religiously motivated, though the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined no such motivation for the incidents.
“There appears to be no indication of a hate crime or sign [that] ... any one particular Christian denomination or ethnic group was being targeted,” the agency said.
Msgr. Robert Gettinger of St. Augustine Catholic Church said he was happy that the suspect was caught and charged. However, Jackson has not been charged in the St. Augustine fire.
“There was a fear in a lot of people, so you're certainly relieved,” Gettinger said. “Hopefully he'll get some kind of help."