Opelousas, La. — The FBI has joined the investigation into a string of suspicious fires at historically black churches in Louisiana. Three churches have burned in less than two weeks in St. Landry Parish near Baton Rouge.
The fire at Greater Union Baptist Tuesday burned from the roof to the pews. For Pastor Harry Richard, whose grandfather helped start the church more than 100 years ago, the damage is personal.
"He left a legacy for me and I was trying to fulfill that to the best of my ability," he said.
The suspicious fires began early last week, with the most recent one on Thursday. All three historically black baptist churches are just a few miles apart in St. Landry Parish.
"We do believe that this fire is suspicious. We do believe a crime has occurred," said Louisiana State Fire Marshal H. Butch Browning.
Historically, the burning of black churches was used to intimidate communities and parishioners here are on edge.
"We can't let this setback stop us from doing what God initially called us to do," said Kyle Sylvester, the pastor of St. Mary's Baptist Church, the first that was burned.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI are involved in the investigation. But the fire marshal said it's too early to categorize any of the fires as hate crimes.
"We're gonna solve this. For the people responsible, the right thing to do would be come ask for redemption and come forward and let us help you through this process, don't make us hunt you down, because we will," said Browning.