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A 35-year-old man has been charged with two of seven fires set in the span of two weeks in St. Louis, authorities said Friday.
David Lopez Jackson was detained Thursday and is facing two counts of second-degree arson, said St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson.
Jackson has been linked to fires set on Oct. 17 at New Life Missionary Baptist Church and Ebenezer Lutheran Church, Dotson said.
Forensic evidence linked the gas used as an accelerant in one of the fires to Jackson, and his car was spotted in surveillance footage at one of the churches on the day of the fire, Dotson said. A gasoline canister was found in the car, he said.
Jackson, who is currently being held on a $75,000 cash bond, is “absolutely” a suspect in the other five fires, which were all set near the doors of churches between Oct. 8 and Oct. 22.
“Certainly, there are similarities between the fires,” Dotson said, adding that the investigation was ongoing.
The ATF said Friday that the investigation has not indicated that the arson was a hate crime.
The most recent church fire set was at the Shrine of St. Joseph Catholic church in downtown St. Louis, which has a predominantly white congregation. The other six churches are predominantly black.
The seven churches were of varying denominations and within a few miles of each other.
“I am overjoyed right now,” said New Life’s pastor, David Triggs. “I’m looking forward to reestablishing an even stronger foundation of faith and hope in our communities.”
St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said he found out about the arrest on Friday morning. “To say that that was relief is an understatement,” he said. “We worried about this 24 hours a day … this was round-the-clock work.”
No one was injured in any of the fires, but the St. Louis Fire Department, the ATF and other agencies that were investigating the outbreak said it was only a matter of time before someone got hurt.
The agencies were offering $5,000 for any information that led to the arrest of a suspect.