The residents and worshipers of the Louisiana Parish, where the three fires took place, prevent any trial, even though officials say they contain "suspicious elements" and that the episodes evoke memories of the fires. acts of hatred perpetrated in the past against black churches.
"I think our district was targeted because the three churches were in our district," Frederic Jack, pastor of the Seventh-day Baptist Missionary Association, told Don Lemon Monday.
"At first we thought it could be an electrical problem, but when the second church … burned, I realized that it was our sister church … then two days later, the third is produced, so at least, think we are targeted. "
The three churches were in St. Landry Parish. The St. Mary Baptist Church, in Port Barre, was burned down on March 26, followed by the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 2 and two days later, from the Baptist Church Mount Pleasant in the same city.
The authorities are also investigating a fourth fire on March 31, which occurred at the predominantly white Vivian United Pentecostal Church in Caddo Parish, more than 200 km north of St. Landry. The fire was intentionally created.
The mayor of the city, Julius Alsandor, called the fires "hideous" church.
"The relevance and impact on the people of the surrounding communities and especially on the congregation of each of these churches, is hurtful and there may be some fear expressed by those who are part of the three churches ", did he declare.
Injury, fear and confusion. This is all that remains to the faithful at the moment.
& # 39; More questions than answers & # 39;
In a call for help from the public, Gov. John Bel Edwards said that he had ordered the Fire Marshal as well as local and federal authorities to "conduct an aggressive investigation" on the fires .
"Churches are sacred places and nobody should fear for his safety in his place of worship," he said. "And no one should fear that their place of worship be destroyed."
The FBI and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives participate in investigations. And while they are looking for answers, the faithful are waiting.
What are the fires called?
Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning said in a statement that there was "obviously something going on" in the community.
"We think these three fires are suspicious," Browning said. "We are unable to talk about the cause of the fires nor to say that they are related, although we are aware that there is a problem and that there is no coincidence there are three fires. "
The ACLU has described the events as "deeply troubling".
But Jack says it's too early to draw conclusions.
"I can not say for one reason or another that the fire itself was a racist act or a hate crime until we could determine who caused them, who has them behind. I do not think we can say, rightly or in all truth, that it was either or, "he told Lemon. "We need the facts before we can generate a thought about what it was."
And the facts may take a while, because most of the evidence has probably disappeared.
"Investigating a fire is a very long process," Browning said. "It's one of the most complicated and unconventional crime scenes you've ever seen because most of the evidence is burned."
"The problem of the investigation of arson is identical to that of bomb investigations: the evidence is destroyed." James Gagliano, CNN's enforcement analyst, said. "That will be the problem, you have to go back and rebuild all that when there is a lot of evidence that has been burned by fire."
The authorities are reviewing a long list of clues.
"A similar type of accelerator, any type of incendiary device that could have been installed there, and then a link in the houses, which could be found on which crime scene could be linked to another, determine whether it was safe. there is a motive and if there is anyone here who is a serial arsonist, "Gagliano said.
Understand this about black churches
Church fires were commonplace at the time of Jim Crow. And the fires in black churches – especially those in the south – immediately evoke such racist attacks.
"For decades, African-American churches have been the epicenter of survival and the symbol of hope for many members of the African-American community," said the president and chief executive officer of NAACP, Derrick Johnson. "As a result, these houses of faith have always been the target of violence."
Ray Sanchez and Deanna Hackney of CNN contributed to this report.