A Charred Gas Can, a Receipt and an Arrest in Fires of 3 Black Churches

Apr 11, 2019 · 103 comments
Jennifer (San Francisco)
We don't need to know one's heart to see their violent, racist actions as what they are: racist. White Americans' ongoing refusal to hold ourselves accountable for what is obvious, demanding instead that assume our inherent good intentions no matter what ill we do is a blight and a sin.
Bill (Terrace, BC)
Another white nationalist terrorist caught. But not to worry. "President" Trump says that its not a problem.
Zak Mark Topor (Atlanta GA)
Even an old Atheist can rejoice and shout amen that a suspect had been caught. I hope we as a nation can find the funds to rebuild these three churches.
Jane Doe (Alabama)
@Zak Mark Topor By “funds,” I hope you meant with private donations (to which I am glad to contribute).
sanity (the hudson valley)
your kindness shines like a beacon....
Donald Luke (Tampa)
Not nearly as deadly, but this reminds me of the white kid who shot all the Black people in that church in South Carolina. Why this terrible racial hatred?
Chaks (Fl)
Wealthy rich parents bribed their kids into college. Reaction:"They just made a mistake. They have suffered enough, let them pay a fine and let's move on with our lives". A White man living in a segregated state of Louisiana drives pass White churches in his neighborhood and goes on to burn 3 Black churches. Reaction: "He is just a young boy whose music is to blamed for his crimes." A Black man who is shot in the back by a police officer. Reaction:' He should have followed the officer order." This is America in 1819; sorry my mistake I meant 2019.
Shimar (unknown)
Here we go again. America's ugly past has raised its ugly head once again. Three Black churches burned and they cannot say racism played a role. This is a blatant act of racism, a hate crime and definitely an act of terrorism. White men are being radicalized by the multitude of new websites by White hate groups during this rebirth of the White Nationalist movement here in America and around the world. But knowing Louisiana, it will be determined he is mentally ill and only a case of arson. This is how America deals with its racism problem. This is how it feels to be a second class citizen.
Ned Netterville (Lone Oak, TN)
"...authorities said that they had not concluded their investigation and could not say whether racism had played a role." Huh? What? D'Oh!
frank monaco (Brooklyn NY)
First Who ever said they don't know yet if the crime was racially motivated should be fired, this person is unqualified to make a statement. What does one think was Mr. Matthews motive? Three African American Churches Please!........... No child when born is born with bigatry and racial hatred. I'm sorry People hear this in the home and those around them. Why is this still happening in 2019? I just can NOT fatham how one can have such hatred to commit acts of violence.
Ferniez (California)
America continues to struggle with the negative after affects of a history of slavery. Throughout the nation there are people like this young man who act out their hate and cause untold suffering to people of color. This cannot be tolerated. But with a president that traffics in hate and division, it is no wonder that racist individuals feel themselves liberated to wreak havoc on innocent people. We all need to speak out against these crimes but in particular we need leaders who will give voice to the need for tolerance and understanding. We all need to stand up to this racism and say no more!
hotGumption (Providence RI)
Raise money on gofundme, rebuild the churches and mandate that whoever did the burning spends 40 hours a week in hard labor until all three have been resurrected. A prison sentence, should that be an outcome, would be too soft. Make a perpetrator be forced to help restore what was destroyed. Amen.
Allen Corzine (Topeka KS)
very inspiring comments about faith and how the church members and investigators reacted to the attacks
The Chief from Cali (Port Hueneme Calif.)
Sorry if you haven’t lived or worked there, you can’t believe how things have not changed. Look for a quick sentence with very little time done.
Jane Doe (Alabama)
@The Chief from Cali No doubt
Bill McGrath (Peregrinator at Large)
This situation reinforces the idea that racism and hatred are hallmarks of the dim-witted. So dim that the perpetrator bought a gas can locally with a debit card three hours before he used it to torch a church. Incroyable!
Jane Doe (Alabama)
@Bill McGrath It’s not a good idea to conflate conservative Southern white male privilege with stupidity.
Robert Perez (San Jose, Ca.)
If it were three synagogs, anti-Semitism would have been a front page rallying cry but three Black churches, not yet determined to be racially motivated. Wow!
North Carolina (North Carolina)
You won't get a label of domestic terrorist out of this case, not in Louisiana. Not the son of a sheriff deputy. They protect their own no matter what. As for the music? That's a dodge too. If investigators dug around a bit more they would find the usual paraphernalia--Nazi symbols, Confederate flags, white power symbols, it's all a cornucopia of hate. And then there would be no choice but to charge him with hate crimes, civil rights violations, etc. As long as this remains in the hand of local law enforcement, state law enforcement this is what you will get. Time to send in the feds to root this out.
EB (New Mexico)
@North Carolina "The F.B.I. and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were involved in the investigation, as well as the Louisiana and Florida state fire marshals, the cybercrime unit of the Louisiana attorney general’s office, and the state and local police."
Turgut (NYC)
Terrible thing to do. The worst part is that these haters think they are actually religious. At least in Islam every skin color can go in any Mosque unlike Christianity which has white churches, black churches, Korean churches etc etc its weird like its not a religion for all. Hmm, something to think about.
sarah (seattle)
I found this story to be one of hope. In the South, a sheriff's white son was charged with 3 counts of arson of black churches. To establish this was also a hate crime will hopefully come later after further interviews and that is important but that this hasn't happened does not dilute the magnitude of what has happened. In Mississippi, a black man named Curtis Flowers has sat in prison for over 20 years when 2 of his 6 trials have been thrown out by the state supreme court for racism and his most recent trial has just been heard by the federal supreme court for the same reason and pending a decision (Where even the conservative Justices seem to overwhelmingly favor Flowers). But for all this the white attorney general who has tried all these, sits free to continue doing his job, an obvious racist. And the district that elected him defends his actions. This is the South where racism is so deep that an Atorney general can be an obvious racist. So next door, in Louisiana, we should take hope in these battles, because they are steps, even if incomplete, towards a better future.
Jane Doe (Alabama)
@sarah I live in the South. How much time have you ever spent in this part of the country? Are you seriously claiming the South is more racist than, say, Arizona (home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio?You think the South is more racist than Idaho, which most white nationalists, “sovereign citizens” and right wing “militia” movements view as a neoAryan paradise? Oh, one more thing....Donald Trump is the poster man-child for full-on white supremacy we haven’t seen since the Klan was at its peak. He isn’t from the South.
hotGumption (Providence RI)
@Jane Doe Jane Doe, I live up north but have traveled extensively through the south and appreciate both that area of the country and your comment. Racism is a fault line through the entire country; it's just easy for some to pin it all on the south.
Chaks (Fl)
Officials say they don't know yet if the crime was racially motivated. So let's me get this right, Mr. Holden Matthews burns 3 Black churches and somehow it's not racist and it's due to his taste in music. So basically black metal listeners only hate black churches and somehow that is not racism. I'm sure the guy couldn't find White churches to burn in Louisiana. For the White church that was burned, I won't be surprised if it was done so that the Hate crime should not be added to the crimes Mr. Holden Matthews is accused of.
J. Faye Harding (Mt. Vernon, NY)
@Chaks Bingo!
Jim (PA)
While his selection of black churches definitely calls into question whether he was partially motivated by racism, I find it completely reasonable that the media is also focusing on his adherence to the Black Metal movement. It is a violently anti-Christian movement, and in the early 90s, Norwegian black metal musicians burned several dozen churches in that country over just a short time. There are many people here in the comments who seem to question the media's focus on his musical taste, and I am here to tell those people that it really is relevant.
MWG (KS)
If this doesn't rise to the level of hate crimes what does? That the father was shocked and hurt as well as one of the sheriff's best friends seems inconsequential to the purposeful acts of destruction. The sheriff summoned the father, his deputy sheriff, to tell him his son was going to be charged [Was the son already in custody?If not; why not?]. These three fires are said to have occurred in the middle of the night and injured no one. That seems like strokes of luck not necessarily predictive of Mr. Matthews future conduct. This article seemed choppy. Parts more intent on describing Mr. Matthew's affiliation with heavy metal and only a dash of description of the meaning to the afflicted church members. Perhaps it was edited by computer or in a piecemeal fashion but this seems a disjointed rendering of these crimes/charges. It reads like the writers paragraphs, some quite lyrical, some disjointed were cut and pasted. The impact after rereading; is the article begs the question, negating the impact of purposely burning three black churches. These are hate crimes anywhere.
Charla Chamberlain
@MWG it is appalling how much deference white people receive, even white men who burn churches, during an investigation. Law enforcement had a suspicion of the son on Wednesday, talked to the dad and arrested on Thursday? Get the FBI over there quick. They probably already handled evidence to cover up yet another crime.
deb (inoregon)
Paraphrasing Republican Steve King: "When did white nationalism become a bad thing?" trump followers are pretty much absent in these comments. They haven't yet found a way to spin this so the churches appear to be madrassas of liberal thought, scaring the community so bad that this young hero wrought some justice. I hope that AT LEAST trump can keep himself from defending church burnings as just frustrated very fine people.
Alan Mass (Brooklyn)
Three things strike me about this article: (1) the ability of some commenters to draw deep conclusions about the defendant's motive(s) based on the limited facts released by the police, (2) the fact that, except for kids playing with matches no one burns down a church unintentionally, and (3) now we may have to worry about a mindless music cult that feels compelled to burn churches.
Chris (NYC)
Funny how the media doesn’t call him a terrorist... but not surprising.
Mtnman1963 (MD)
His father was shocked and hurt? "Why, oh WHY did he listen to all my racist rantings when he was young?!?!?!" Probably more like "didn't I teach that boy not to leave his gas can at church burnings????"
Coopmindy (Upstate NY)
Unfair—you don’t know anything about how the boy was raised. Comments like this are what make rural people so distrustful of “elites.”
Mtnman1963 (MD)
@Coopmindy Fair enough. He wasn't born thinking these things.
Bill (Wherever)
@Mtnman1963 Or, as is often the case with today’s fascist youth, the son was rebelling against the father’s egalitarianism. Or he’s another generational fashion victim rebelling against what he perceives to be the older, “uncool” Baby Boomer generation’s egalitarianism.
Bella (The City Different)
Idle hands are the devil's workshop. This sad specimen of a human being caused damage to so many including his family. We seem to have an abundance of people who spend their time seeking out hatred to hurt others while unable to give any thought to the consequences. Social media has made obscure hate groups all too easy to access for those unstable minds.
Beherenow (NYC)
Is there a link or address available for the rebuilding funds for these three destroyed churches?
jean (michigan)
@Beherenow a link would be very helpful...
DFW (Texas)
I am betting the authorities are trying to keep the hate crime out of this since the suspect is the son of a local sheriff's deputy. Hate crimes usually receive tougher sentences. Even though race clearly has to be a factor, the good ol' boys are trying to do a fella "right".
Lively B (San Francisco)
Feels like Mississippi Burning with the deputy's son involved. Wondering if that acorn is a reflection of the tree - chilling if so.
Kevin (Colorado)
Some people who perform these kind of acts are just evil, others are mentally ill. Usually regardless of which camp the individual is in, the families always feigns surprise for appearances. I wonder if the family ever tried to engage mental health professionals and were thwarted by the system. I am not excusing the actions, just asking a question that if it is the latter might give parishioners a little less anxiety.
Alex
"Practitioners" of black metal? Three authors, and no one caught this?
Ron (AZ)
@Alex What is wrong with "practitioner"?
deb (inoregon)
@Alex, they are so bad that they have to keep just practicing, so yeah.
scrumble (Chicago)
Officials can't say it was a racist attack? Can a display of disingenuousness be more staggering?
HArriet Katz (Albany Ny)
If racial bias is charged as a separate offense, law-enforcement cannot state the obvious until an investigation is complete, otherwise and caught the defense might include an attack on pre-judgment by investigators, Attempting to undermine the prosecution.
D. Ben Moshe (Sacramento)
I am waiting for our president to address the nation and speak out condemning home grown white terrorism and racism. Sadly, we all know that will never happen as he busies himself with xenophobic rants against Muslims and Central American “murderers and rapists”.
Olenska (New England)
@D. Ben Moshe: It's because he isn't "our" president - the president of all of us, of the entire nation; he is only president of, at best, 40% of the country. He only cares about, and speaks to, them.
Ramya (Minneapolis)
I'm surprised that this is not being tried as a hate crime, but as an act of 'simple arson'. It couldn't have been coincidence that all three churches were black churches of historical value. The perpetrator is being let off easy because of his family connections to local law enforcement.
Allen82 (Oxford)
You neglected to print the entire quotation from John Bell Edwards, the Governor of Lousiana: "These were evil acts. But let me be clear about this, hate is not a Louisiana value." Gov. Edwards is laboring under some delusion, as is anyone in this country, who does not think that a significant segment of society is governed by hate. We have a "President" fomenting this hate. We have Fox news fomenting hate against representatives of our government. The women representatives targeted by Fox are not just "she-devil" substitutes for Hilary Clinton. They are also individuals who are not White Anglo Saxon Protestants. The Klan and White Supremacy in Lousiana still exists and we are seeing it's rise all over America. White Supremacy is, and wiil be, part of the values of Lousiana until it is eradicated.
Carole (In New Orleans)
This act has all the indicators of a hate crime. The type of music this individual listened to didn't encouage him to commit arson at the church of another racial group. This young man needs therapy ,and he must be held accountable for this crime.
D. Gable (NJ)
Why isn't this despicable young man being charged with terrorism? Because that's exactly what he perpetrated-- three terrorist acts designed to intimidate and frighten southern blacks. When will people realize and accept that Black Lives Matter means that if all lives matter, then black lives must matter, too?
Bill McGrath (Peregrinator at Large)
@D. Gable: Terrorism charges are typically Federal, not state. I would think that the odds would be good that he might be charged with terrorism in a normal administration; in Trump's DOJ, who knows? As someone else commented, sarcastically, there were good people on both sides of the gas can. This case won't slip through the cracks; it's too high profile.
Charles Coughlin (Spokane, WA)
Ah that Walmart Sphinx knows all. Awhile back, an aspiring terrorist in northeast Washington State had an affinity for a certain type of fishing weight. Among other shrapnel, Kevin Harpham stuffed them into a backpack bomb intended to blow up an MLK parade in Spokane, WA. The remote detonator didn't work so well, so the FBI collected all the souvenirs. As it turned out, his love for those fishing weights was so great that he was Walmart's best customer for them. It didn't take long for the FBI's densest agent (you know, the ones Trump talks about all the time) to track down the suspect.
Bill (Wherever)
@Charles Coughlin Interesting. But please don’t use their names. It only gives them the publicity they seek.
Jasper (Brooklyn)
It's disappointing to see the finger of blame being pointed at music. No music genre can ever be blamed for a person's hateful actions, no matter how distasteful the reporters happen to find it. The ny times should hold themselves to a higher standard. This article is unhelpful and innapropriate. The musical tastes of an arsonist are completely irrelevant.
Jim (PA)
@Jasper - As a lifelong fan of heavy metal since the early 80s, I was there when the Black Metal movement started. I was immediately repulsed by it, and I can say that Black Metal deserves its bad reputation. It is aggressively anti-Christian and many of the "musicians" in fact encourage acts such as church burnings (and some have famously engaged in them and are in prison for it). This is one case where the musical taste of the accused is anything but irrelevant.
Plumberb (CA)
Yes, a person's hateful actions must stand on their own. But to suggest that music, literature, film, and a person's other cultural associations cannot influence one to commit a hateful act does not match the history of hate at all.
Dr. Gordon Govens (Atlanta)
I'm curious. When a black man commits a crime, you paste his picture on the front page, that is, the New York Times as well as other newspapers. Yet, when a white defendant commits a heinous crime, you don't put his picture on the front page but bury it in the story, if you include at all (for instance why is it that we rarely see the picture of a police officer who has been arrested). I am certain that this is intentional on the part of the NYT and other news agencies. Why, because I have been paying close attention. To find out what the New Zealand defendant looked like, I had to search online, yet his picture never appeared in the NYT or other newspapers, online or otherwise, other than the blurred picture provided by the New Zealand court. I can't believe that the "great" NYT could not find a picture of the guy with its "world-class" team of reporters.
DWS (Georgia)
I read the NYT online so I have no clear sense of “where” the suspect’s picture appeared in the article in the version you read. Certainly he is pictured in the article, in all of his youthful ignorance. As far as the transgressor in New Zealand is concerned, the tacit agreement between the government of New Zealand and the media seems to have been to refuse him the notoriety he sought. No pictures, certainly, and only the barest mention of his name. (I think I saw it in print once, on my phone’s Fox News feed, naturally.) Frankly, I’m with the Times on this (and the New York Times is great, by the way, and its photographers second to none). That these individuals choose to crawl out from under their rocks to commit these vicious acts does not mean they deserve their moment in the sun. I say deny them their notoriety as you deny them their freedom with lengthy prison sentences.
Tim (The Upper Peninsula)
@Dr. Gordon Govens Regarding your claim about pictures of criminal defendants and where they appear in the NYTimes ("as well as other newspapers"): you offer broad generalities with no basis in fact. For example, you condemn the NYTimes for not displaying a picture of the New Zealand shooter. For someone who claims to have been "paying close attention," you somehow missed the widely reported fact that a concerted effort was made by the press and people of New Zealand to diminish and conceal the image of the shooter--and, instead, wisely, to focus on the images of the people he killed. In solidarity with them, responsible newspapers around the world chose to do likewise.
Ron (AZ)
I read the NYT regularly and never noticed a disparity. Some news outlets are trying to take the focus off of suspects so they do not get the fame they desire. The effort is to reduce copycat crimes. I'm very glad the suspect's photo is "buried" and I hope this strategy goes even further. If you believe NYT treats blacks differently, I encourage you to present evidence to the editors and urge fairness.
GSMK (Vermont)
"authorities said that they had not concluded their investigation and could not say whether racism had played a role." Dear Opelousas Authorities: Cut to the chase and ave some time and money. Racism played a role. Sincerely, GSMK
Bill (Wherever)
@GSMK Yes, we all know it was racially motivated, but the police need to act professionally and avoid creating any basis for the suspect, if changed and convicted, arguing on appeal that his right to a fair trial was prejudiced by pre-trial publicity. They need to find *evidence* that the suspect was not only a devotee of a style of music associated with racism, but also, at the least, that he himself was racist, and ideally that he was motivated by racism in committing these crimes. I think they’ll find that evidence, in short order. Let’s be patient and let them do their job.
Robert Hogner (Vero Beach FL)
A sub-genre of contemporary music dedicated to acts of burning churches, here churches of the "Black Community." Let that sink 'n a'bit, then reflect. Why? Why now? What can I do to counter this?
Susan (Reynolds County, Missouri)
This great nation has taken a giant step backwards with the election of a President who repeatedly has failed to forcefully condemn the White Supremacy movement. He has been joined by his Congressional supporters who would rather twist words of their political opponents into seemingly being antisemitic while ignoring the real and rising number of home-grown right-wing attacks against people of color, Jews, and Muslims. America has not been made great again: it has been urged towards greater hatred by the white nationalist in the Oval Office. Hope lies in uniting and voting all these scoundrels out of office.
Barbara (WaWa)
@Susan Sadly, the GOP will do whatever it takes to win and hold onto power. Is there no one within the GOP who will stand up to the cancer within?
M.J.Herrera (Miami. FL)
Don’t hold your breath!
Bill (Wherever)
@Susan I agree, but this comment jumps the gun on the crime’s motive and then makes one of those eye-rioll-causing leaps to Trump that are all too common on the NYT comment boards The police haven’t established that the crimes were racially motivated. The evidence as set forth in the article ties the the suspect to the same *type* of gas can that was used in one of the attacks, and (unless the father’s car has some specific identifying markers left unstated) the *type* of vehicle seen in the vicinity of the attacks. I also roll my eyes when commenters go to extremes in crying “presumption of innocence!” but in this case, the evidence is still circumstantial and I think it needs to be further developed before we can even formulate a reasonably firm armchair opinion on the suspects likely guilt. I despise Trump. His repeated and consistent avowals of support for bigots, fascists, and white nationalists is repugnant. I’m down with Eric Holder on “When they go low, we kick them.” Forget civility and politeness. But even when kicking them, we still need to stick to basic principles of logic and reason.
Traci Cee (Detroit)
A white man deliberately set fire to multiple predominantly black churches, but authorities "could not say whether racism played a role." Yeah, OK ... It'd be refreshing if people spoke the truth, especially since our country has a long and despicable history of these horrible attacks: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_attacks_against_African-American_churches Best wishes to those affected congregations in LA.
J. Faye Harding (Mt. Vernon, NY)
@Traci Cee I said the same thing. A blind person could see that it's a hate crime but the "authorities" cannot. Why? I bet if a Mexican or a person of color had committed the same crime against a white church, the "authorities" would be blasting it as a hate crime from every front page of every newspaper and media outlet. Certainly Faux News would be. I'm waiting to see how they spin this story of this poor southern boy who was led astray by heavy metal music or his mental illness or some other sob story that we're supposed to be sympathetic to and how he is some kind of victim. Give me a break.
Wayne (Brooklyn, New York)
Most people his age have moved beyond the racist past. Makes one wonder what makes him so different.
HArriet Katz (Albany Ny)
Maybe because he’s going nowhere, Accomplishing nothing of value for himself, and doesn’t have a clue How to do it.
Marias Farrington (Salt Lake City)
Why is this cowardly deed termed, simple?
WmC (Lowertown, MN)
@Marias Farrington "Simple" arson as opposed to "aggravated" arson, which applies when the building is occupied.
JP (Denver)
it is called simple because it is not compound. in other words it does not appear to compound another crime like burning a building to cover up a murder.
Wayne Falda (Michigan)
Consider, if you will, the classic fight or flight reaction that is a built-in app in every human who has ever lived. Now consider the future and the emotional state of Trumpean holdouts as the results of more than a dozen investigations into Trump's life - both political and private - become public. It's the obdurates who have chosen to fight instead of running away from the truth who scare me. The slow release of information that we are seeing now is actually good for the country. I remember what happened to Nixon apologists and loyalists following the publication of entire Pentagon Papers in the New York Times. No matter how things shake out, the future is not going to be pretty, folks.
Matthew (North Carolina)
How come he’s only being charged with three simple counts of arson? Doesn’t burning down houses of worship qualify as a hate crime, even just a little? We want justice for this and should set a deafening example, hopefully once and for all.
JHM (UK)
This is more than Black Metal, it is racism as he targeted specific churches, Black ones. Sadly the children of law enforcement as well as Ministers are often disaffected or maladjusted (not always) but this should not be the case...to the contrary, a person who stands for justice should be able to teach his/her children values. I would say more than the average. So how did this happen?
Andrew (Tallahassee)
There were good people on both sides of the gas can, both sides.
Sarah (Arlington, VA)
@Andrew That says it all. Brilliant.
DWS (Georgia)
Scathing remark, Andrew. Excellently put.
NMT (Alabama PA)
This is directly related to what happened to the FCC during the Reagan administration. We are continually offered and exposed to films, video, television programs and advertisements filled with the glorification of violence, speed and destruction. Sports events now include loud heavily pulsating music and blaring lights. It's so prevalent that many people are inured to it. The defense is always "free speech" and "free market" practices but it's clearly just a race to the extreme. How much more excited can we become, or how numb?
Nancy (Winchester)
I am not religious but as a child I learned the verse, "For where two or three have gathered together in my name there I am in the midst of them." Mrs. Nichols comments reminded me of this.
Denny (MD)
As I read this story, the chant, "Make America Great Again" echoes in my head. America is something again, but it's not great. We're going back to a time of church burning, voter suppression, white supremacy, antisemitism, racism, bigotry, and on and on. The sad point is, those are the times when some people believe America was at its greatest. I find some comfort in knowing people who think that way are in the minority, but when they have the power of the executive office on their side, we all suffer. The suspect is 21 years old. There's still time for him to change, but I wonder what was echoing in his head when he "allegedly" burned down those churches.
Foregone Conclusion (Maine Coast)
“But everyone also knows the story of the South.“ Poor assumption. We must continue to teach the ugly truth of our past if we wish to avoid repeating it.
Sarah (Arlington, VA)
@Foregone Conclusion Unfortunately Texas prints the most books that are used in today's non-history teachings. And the very same state axed the course of critical thinking from its curricula in middle and high school to protect their easily influenced little ones revolting against their parents 'authority'.
BoudreauxThibodeaux (formerly Southwest LA)
Actually, though the NYT and many commenters conflate the two, much of SWLA is very different from the negative stereotypes perpetuated re: “the South.” For example, the average Cajun did not own slaves and many successfully avoided the civil war. Mr. Matthews does not appear to be of French-Acadian heritage.
Sam (MA)
This has nothing to do with black metal music; it's more about his attitude toward blacks.
Jim (PA)
@Sam - Why can't it be both?
Dominic (Astoria, NY)
These are acts of domestic terrorism and are hate crimes as well. Targeting black churches sends an unmistakable message. Please also stop attempting to tie these horrible acts to the perpetrator's taste in music. That laziness in thinking is no different than the stupid hysteria drummed up by social conservatives in the past decades over music, video games, and movies. There's no link. The cause of these crimes is racism, and the white supremacy of the perpetrator.
Bill (Wherever)
@Dominic Give the police and federal authorities a chance to follow the music/racism lead to see if it yields evidence of actual racism expressed by *this* suspect. Without the music, all they have is a series of crimes against black churches. Of course that looks like a pattern to reasonable minds, but the suspect could still argue he was choosing churches as soft targets for crimes motivated by general pyromania, and they all just happened to be black.
Gregory Ziegler (Washington, District of Columbia)
Awful. To burn places of worships is one of the most inhumane and atrocious act one can do. I hope the perpetrator is faced with the highest charges for doing these hate crimes.
Ken Nyt (Chicago)
I am always so impressed by good investigative police work which this effort seems to have been. I am doubly impressed when it takes place somewhere I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see it. Beyond that I am utterly nauseated by the subcultures of ignorant hatred that encourage weak minds toward such acts. Fortunately in this case sharp, fast police work prevented potentially results than property destruction.
AnnaT (Los Angeles)
What a terrible thing to do. But I don’t understand the emphasis on his musical tastes here—it’s reminiscent of the “satanic panic” of the 1980s, when people worried that playing LPs backward would reveal bands’ secret devil worshipping. This guy is charged with setting fires that terrorized people and destroyed the core of their neighborhoods and lives. Let’s not make this about metal.
BJFruge (Lafayette, LA)
@AnnaT The evidence, though circumstantial, is that his taste in music played an important role in his terrorist activities. A quick read of Wikipedia shows that the history of this particular style of metal music (not all metal music) is full of violent and hateful activities. There were several church burnings in the 1990s in Norway. There is also a subset of the genre that is for National Socialists (Nazis). Whether the motivation here was to terrify Christians or more specifically to terrify Black Christians, the actions of this perpetrator cannot be separated from what influenced him. We look to what influenced him to determine if we can expect more terrorist acts, more violence.
Disillusioned (NJ)
The very fact that these events can take place in America shows how little has changed in the past one hundred years. "While no one would characterize the area as a racial utopia . . ." Why? Will America ever change or must future generations continue to shed tears over rampant, tolerated racism? Anyone who denies that racism is America's greatest plague is not paying attention. It will cause the demise of our nation.
Elliot Podwill (New York CIty)
Disillusioned's statement that racism remains America's worst problem is too narrow. It's economic and environmental issues impacting all people that we have most to worry about. An egalitarian society with free medical care and education along with improved infrastructure and guaranteed annual wages will raise all boats. Yes, of course there's racism, demonstrated most clearly by poor, ignorant whites whose world view might well change if they had more opportunities and benefits.
hotGumption (Providence RI)
@Disillusioned Much has changed in 100 years; there are still racists but there is also a younger generation much more willing to engage and assimilate, despite its hateful outliers. My opinion is that people who hate are likely very indiscriminate when it comes to their targets. They just want someone, anyone, to suffer because of their self disgust. It could be someone old, someone black, someone gay, someone Jewish, some female and so on.
jimfaye (Ellijay, GA)
What on earth inside this boy's mind caused him to do these horrible acts I cannot imagine. Our country's mindset is so sick and hateful I cannot believe it. We must recognize and ferret out whatever evil is causing our young men to go completely bonkers and out of control. Until we get serious about drugs and guns and good mental health and start doing something life-saving about it, we will continue to see the downward spiral in our country, especially among the young men. This is way more harmful to our country than the immigrants trying to get in, and this is way more important and deserving of attention than any WALL.
Edward James Dunne (NEW YORK)
@jimfaye I appreciate your consternation, but I wonder why it is that we think of 21 year old black perpetrators as "criminals" and consider them adults, but think of this white perpetrator as a "boy" thus diminishing his responsibility. We "must ferret out whatever is causing our young BLACK men to go completely bonkers". But we know what it is, pure and simply, racism.
Bill (Wherever)
@jimfaye Man. Not boy.
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