Louisiana Teen Accused of Setting Fire to Black Church, Stealing Utility Trucks

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St. Paul Baptist Church’s new sanctuary was damaged in the fire. (Photo by Darius Kendricks/KNOE)

A Louisiana teen faces multiple charges after authorities say he stole two Entergy utility trucks and set fire to an African-American church.

Richland Parish Sheriff Gary Gilley said he received reports of a fire at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31. The fire burned the church’s new sanctuary but spared its centuries-old local community building, the News Star of Monroe reported.

The church just recently celebrated its 137th anniversary. Witnesses said they talked to the young white driver of an Entergy Corp. truck seen leaving the scene shortly before smoke began rising from the building. By the time emergency and fire officials arrived, the church was engulfed in flames.

Police later found the vehicle in Caldwell Parish with the suspect inside and confirmed his connection to the crime. Sheriff Clay Bennett said the teen was also involved in the theft of a second Entergy truck from a lot next to Caldwell Parish High School. Police believe he used the truck to ram several other vehicles at the school.

Gilley said the suspect will face an arson charge in Richland Parish. Pending charges in Caldwell Parish remain unknown. The Caldwell Sheriff’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

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