J.B. Forbes / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

Arrest made over string of St. Louis-area church arsons

Churches in largely black neighborhoods were targeted; authorities say suspect in custody is African-American

St. Louis police said Friday an arrest had been made in connection with a spate of fires that have damaged several churches in largely black neighborhoods earlier this month. 

Authorities confirmed to Al Jazeera that a 35-year-old black male was taken into custody on Thursday. 

Five of the churches that were vandalized have predominantly black congregations, and one congregation is racially mixed while a seventh attack took place at a church whose congregation was largely white

In each case, the front door of the church was set on fire, but the damage varied from superficial at one church to the near destruction of another. 

The attacks took place between Oct. 8 and Oct. 18.  

Earlier this month, St. Louis Fire Capt. Garon Mosby said the possibility that the fires could be hate crimes based on religion or race was "part of the dynamic" of the investigation.

The St. Louis area is still reeling from last year's police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, and a grand jury's subsequent decision not to charge the officer who shot him. Brown was black and unarmed when he was shot by white Darren Wilson in a case that spurred the national "Black Lives Matter" movement scrutinizing police treatment of minorities.

Rewards totaling $9,000 had been offered for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for the church fires, which Gov. Jay Nixon has condemned as "cowardly acts" and "deeply troubling."

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press 

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