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Tag: ATF

Prosecutors File Hate Crime Charges Against Man Accused of Torching 3 Black Churches

Holden Matthews

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against the white man suspected of setting fire to three African American churches in Louisiana.

Authorities believe Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a sheriff’s deputy, was motivated by racism when he allegedly used gasoline to burn three historic black church in the St. Landry Parish over 10 days, The Associated Press reports.

On Monday, Matthews pleaded not guilty to the hate crimes and three counts of arson of a religious building. Worried Matthews is a flight risk, state District Judge James Doherty denied bail for Matthews, who had no previous criminal record.

“We felt that he was an immediate risk to public safety,” said Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning. “In my mind, I felt another fire was imminent.”

The ATF helped local authorities in the hunt for the culprit.

Matthews was charged after authorities said his cell phone records placed him at the arsons. Found on the phone were images of the three churches burning, the fire marshal said.

Son of Sheriff’s Deputy Arrested Over Fires at 3 Black Churches in La.

Suspect Holden Matthews. Via Facebook.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The 21-year-old son of a St. Landry Parish deputy has been identified as the suspect accused of setting fire to three historic black churches in Louisiana.

“A suspect has been identified in connection with the three church burnings in Opelousas, Louisiana, and is in state custody,” said U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office, ATF, and FBI are working with state and local law enforcement and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the victims and those St. Landry Parish residents affected by these despicable acts.”

Holden Matthews was turned in by his father, Deputy Roy Matthews, on Wednesday evening, CBS News reports.

The three fires have a lot in common: They broke out at historic African American church buildings in Louisiana Landry Parish at night, were located in rural areas and occurred when no one was inside.

The suspect lives in the Landry Parish.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether authorities have a motive.

The ATF and other agencies are holding a press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday to release more information.

Earlier this week, the NAACP called the church burnings “domestic terrorism” aimed at people because of their race and faith.

The first fire broke out on March 26 and burned St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre to the ground. The second fire occurred Tuesday at the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, and the third fire broke out Thursday at the 100-year-old Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas.

FBI, ATF Investigate ‘Suspicious’ Fires at 3 Historic Black Churches in Louisiana

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI, ATF and Louisiana state officials are investigating a series of “suspicious” blazes at historic black Baptist churches in Louisiana.

The three fires have a lot in common: They broke out at historic African American church buildings in Louisiana Landry Parish at night, were located in rural areas and occurred when no one was inside, ABC News reports.

The first fire broke out on March 26 and burned St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre to the ground. The second fire occurred Tuesday at the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, and the third fire broke out Thursday at the 100-year-old Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas.

Authorities said they’re on high alert and consider all three fires to be suspicious.

Authorities Search for ‘Substantial’ Number of Firearms Stolen From ATF Facility in West Virginia

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Federal authorities are searching for a “substantial” number of firearms and gun parts stolen from a government disposal facility in Martinsburg, W.Va., USA Today reports.

Christopher Yates, a security contractor assigned to the ATF  repository in West Virginia, has been charged in connection with the missing weapons and parts.

Yates has allegedly acknowledged transferring at least some of the stolen property to an unidentified person Maryland.

 

Head of ATF on Proposed Budget and Trimming Fat: ‘Now We’re Trimming into Bone’

Acting head of ATF Thomas Brandon.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

One way to cut back on enforcement of the nation’s gun laws is to reduce funding to the top agency tasked with that job.

On Wednesday, Thomas Brandon, head of ATF, broke with the White House on the administration’s 2020 budget proposal that calls for ATF cuts, saying it would further damage the agency, which is already straining for resources, the Washington Times writes.

Brandon told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the proposed budget would results in ATF losing 377 positions to attrition.

“You hear people say, ‘trim the fat.’ Then we trimmed into muscle and now we’re trimming into bone,”  Brandon testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee. “ATF won’t be able to do what it can do today.”

Brandon also said discussed benefits of a bill the White House opposes that extends the amount of time the FBI can get to perform gun-purchase background checks, the Times reports.

 

Head of D.C. ATF Field Office Talks About Fighting Spike in Homicides in The City

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

ATF Special Agent in Charge Ashan M. Benedict started his career dealing with street violence in D.C. He eventually rose through the ranks and headed up the New York field office in 2016.

But with the spike in homicides in the District, he’s back to head up the D.C. Field Office to help battle a spike in homicides.

WUSA9 spoke to him about his latest challenge.

ATF Trying to Catch Up With Backlog of Gun Licenses Due to Government Shutdown

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history has left its mark — and not in a good way.

ATF, which is responsible for approving Federal Firearms Licenses for gun dealers, finds itself with a huge backlog to process, station KERA reports.

ATF spokeswoman April Langwell tells the station it’s hard to pin down how many pending licenses would have been resolved during the 35-day shutdown, but in a typical month, ATF receives roughly 1,000 new dealer license applications and roughly 30,000 National Firearms Act licenses.

Government Shutdown Is Stymying Investigations by Federal Agents And Lowering Morale

Border Patrol agent makes an arrest. Photo via Border Patrol.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA, ATF and Customs and Border Protection are finding that the government shutdown is stymying ongoing investigations.

Many law enforcement officials are being denied travel and money to pay informants involving investigations because there is a lack of available cash, The Washington Post reports.

“The lack of funding is impacting agents’ ability to travel to forward their cases,” said Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association. “As we go forward, those funds are not going to be available and in some cases are not available now.”

Low morale also is a factor. Federal law enforcement employees are considered essential and must work without a paycheck. The stress of financial problems at home can affect their work performance, law enforcement officials said.

“My biggest concern is there’s going to be an agent who is not going to be focused on his job,” Nathan Catura, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said. “He’s going to be out on the street doing some enforcement of something, and he’s going to get hurt. Heaven forbid there’s an agent who gets killed because his mind isn’t on the job.”

Catura added: “Other law enforcement people I continue to speak to, they share the same concerns. The longer this drags out, the more I’m concerned that something’s going to happen.”