Authorities have charged a black St. Louis man with arson over setting ablaze two of seven churches in an mostly African-American part of the St. Louis.
Federal investigators say, considering the circumstances, it will be hard to charge, David Lopez Jackson, 35, with committing a hate crime.
Jackson was charged Friday in St. Louis Circuit Court with two counts of second-degree arson in the fires at Ebenezer Lutheran Church and New Life Missionary Baptist Church, both in the city. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said investigations continue into the other fires — three in St. Louis, two in nearby Jennings — and Jackson is a suspect in all of them. The fires were set between Oct. 8 and Oct. 22. Five of the congregations are predominantly black, one is racially mixed and one is mostly white. The fires spurred a hate-crime investigation to determine if the attacks were motivated by race or religion. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives downplayed that possibility in a statement on Friday. “There appears to be no indication of a hate crime or sign … any one particular Christian denomination or ethnic group was being targeted,” the federal agency said. h/t mashable
Dotson gave no alternative explanation for the attacks, saying investigators “are still trying to understand” the motive.