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Suspect arrested in 2 of 7 church arsons

David Lopez Jackson has been charged with two of the seven October church arsons
Provided by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department

A 35-year-old St. Louis man has been arrested in connection with two church arsons that put St. Louis and parts of north St. Louis County on high alert in October.

David Lopez Jackson is being held on a $75,000 cash-only bond. He was arrested on Thursday and officially charged on Friday with two counts of second-degree arson for the fires that damaged the New Life Missionary Baptist and Ebenezer Lutheran churches. He is considered a suspect in the other five. 

"This arrest is obviously the result of a lot of collaboration," said St. Louis mayor Francis Slay. "St. Louis came together for this. It was something very important. Arson of any kind is disturbing, it is especially disturbing when arson is directed at the very foundation of our community, at our places of worship."

St. Louis Metropolitan Police chief Sam Dotson said video and forensic evidence link Jackson to the two fires for which he's been charged. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives provided assistance to the St. Louis Fire Department and the St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit.

"For us as an agency , we take this seriously," said Dana Nichols, the assistant special agent in charge of the ATF's Kansas City office. "An attack on the church is an attack on the foundation of our community, and the investigators appreciate that, and know the impact these events have had on the community." 

St. Louis fire chief Dennis Jenkerson said Friday morning's phone call from Dotson was a huge source of relief.

"We worried about this 24 hours a day," he said. "We were in constant contact with the police department, trying to give them any more information we could."

Pastor David Triggs of United Believers in Christ said he was "overjoyed" to get the news of Jackson's arrest. 

"First of all, that this person is off the street, and we can work toward getting him the help that he needs," Triggs said. "I was also overjoyed for the community, because when you attack a church, you attack more than just the building. It’s not even about the building, but it’s about the community that surrounds the building," he said.

Triggs said the fires showed him the St. Louis community could put aside its differences and come together, and he looked forward to establishing an even stronger community in the future.  

Pastor David Triggs (center) leads the New Life Missionary Baptist Church (soon to be United Believers in Christ Ministries) in prayer outside their burned building on Sunday.
Credit Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio
Pastor David Triggs (center) leads the New Life Missionary Baptist Church (soon to be United Believers in Christ Ministries) in prayer outside their burned building on Oct. 25

"If anything good can come out of this, it's the ecumenical sense of brotherhood," said the  Rev. Dale Wunderlich of the Shrine of St. Joseph. His was the last church attacked.

Dotson said investigators are still trying to establish a motive for Jackson's crimes. The ATF said there was no indication yet that the arsons rose to the level of hate crimes, or any sign that one denomination or ethnic group was being targeted. Jackson is black, and six of the seven churches have predominately African-American congregations.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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