A white teenager has been accused of setting fire to a predominately black church in Louisiana.
Members of the St Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Richland Parish, Louisiana, found their church burned to ashes this week, after a 15-year-old reportedly stole a truck, picked up gasoline, and torched the sanctuary.
"I couldn't believe it," Mary Alexander, a long-time church member, told MyArkLaMiss. "Because we was just here last night for a church meeting and you never expect things like this would happen this close by."
Witnesses reported the fire to the Richland Parish sheriff’s office on Tuesday morning, the News-Star of Monroe reported. The deputies and fire department arrived to find the building engulfed in flames.
The witnesses told authorities they had seen a young white man driving a white Entergy truck at the scene. They noticed smoke rising from the church shortly after the truck left.
Working with the Entergy corporation, authorities tracked the truck to neighbouring Caldwell Parish, where the suspect was found still driving the vehicle.
Authorities now say the juvenile is connected to the theft of another Entergy truck from the lot near Caldwell Parish High School on Tuesday. The school was briefly placed on lock down when a truck ran into several vehicles on campus.
The teenager has been arrested in Calwell Parish in connection with the truck theft, and will also face arson charges in Richland Parish, according to the MyArkLaMiss.
The St Paul Missionary Baptist Church recently celebrated its 137th anniversary, according to KNOE 8 News. The building that burned down was the church’s new, four-month-old outpost. The older building remained untouched.
"We don't know why," Ms Alexander said of the fire. "Only God knows what's going through that person's mind. So we just ask for prayers for that person as well as our church family."
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