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Race isn't thought to be a motive after St. Louis church arson suspect arrested

Race isn't thought to be a motive after St. Louis church arson suspect arrested
Deacon Clinton McMiller, left, and Pastor David Triggs carry a cabinet back into New Life Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis on Oct. 18. The church held a service outdoorsdue to fire damage. (J.B. Forbes / St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Race is not thought to be a motive for the man arrested on suspicion of burning black churches in St. Louis, officials said Friday.

David Lopez Jackson, 35, who is black, was charged with two counts of second-degree arson after his arrest Thursday and was being held in lieu of a $75,000 cash-only bond.

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Officials linked him to two of the seven arson attacks this month in which a perpetrator set fire to the front doors of local churches late at night, stirring fears that black congregations were being targeted for racial reasons. (Read the Los Angeles Times' story about those attacks here.)

Six of the seven attacks occurred at churches in predominantly black neighborhoods in northern St. Louis and north St. Louis County.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson, at a televised news conference, did not give a motive and declined to say whether he thought Jackson was responsible for all seven fires. However, Dotson said that more charges might be filed against Jackson.

Jackson's criminal record includes convictions for felonious use of a weapon in 1998, a felony drug charge in 2008, and felony property damage in 2014.

A judge ordered Jackson to undergo a mental health evaluation in 2012, according to online court records.

Officials said that surveillance video showed Jackson's car at the scene of a fire at the Ebenezer Lutheran Church on Oct. 18. Gas was used as an accelerant in that fire and also at the New Life Missionary Baptist Church, which was seriously damaged the same night, Dotson said.

When officials searched Jackson's car, they found two gas canisters and a thermos that smelled like gasoline, Dotson said. Jackson told investigators he was the only one who used his car, officials said.

David Triggs, pastor of the New Life Missionary Baptist Church, said he was "just overjoyed right now."

"I think what this has shown us as a community of people is that we can set our differences aside and that we can come together in a unified state," Triggs said.

Follow @MattDPearce for national news

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