A 35-year-old man with an extensive criminal record was charged on Friday in connection with a string of suspected arson fires at St. Louis-area churches, police said.
David Lopez Jackson, 35, was charged with two counts of second-degree arson in connection with fires set at the doors of two predominantly African-American churches in St. Louis, police said. He is also a suspect in five other church fires in St. Louis and a suburb since Oct. 8, according to police.
Jackson, who is black, has a long criminal record, including charges of domestic assault, burglary, drug-related crimes, resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, police said. He is being held on a $75,000 cash-only bond.
No one was injured in the small fires, which damaged the two Catholic and five Protestant churches. Most have primarily black congregations, although the Shrine of St. Joseph church has a mostly white congregation.
Based on the investigation so far, there was no indication of a hate crime, or that any particular denomination or ethnic group was targeted, according to a statement from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Father Bob Gettinger at St. Augustine Catholic Church, which had its 100-year-old doors severely damaged by fire, said he was glad to hear a suspect was in custody. Gettinger said insurance would cover replacing the doors, which could cost $10,000.
Howard Matthews, a volunteer for the Shrine of St. Joseph, said the rectory's double doors would need to be replaced but he was grateful the Oct. 22 fire was stopped before it spread.
"I give all the credit to the fire department," Matthews said.
The arson charges are for fires set at Ebenezer Lutheran Church and New Life Missionary Baptist Church.
David Triggs, pastor at New Life, which was badly damaged by a fire, exchanged "high fives" and hugs with police after the arrest.
"The church has prevailed," Triggs said. "God's smiling down on us."