A 23-year-old Black man from Mississippi was arrested Tuesday for multiple fires he allegedly set around the city. Thanks to a tip, Devin McLaurin was arrested by Hinds County deputies near the Hinds and Copiah County line and will be transferred to the Jackson Police Department for more questioning.
According to WLBT, McLaurin allegedly had a hand in six separate arson cases, setting fires at the Epiphany Church, the Greater Bethlehem Temple Church, as well as a gas station on Terry Road. The arsonist also allegedly set fire to the baseball practice field at Jackson State University
Jackson, Mississippi is 83% Black. Thankfully, no injuries were reported.
Police have not released any information on McLaurin’s motives, but a spokesperson for the Jackson Police Department said McLaurin is being charged with felony malicious mischief.
One of the arsonist’s targets was the Epiphany Lutheran Church at the corner of Isaiah Montgomery and Dalton. Epiphany is one of the oldest predominately Black Lutheran churches in Mississippi. According to officials and witnesses, the church burned for more than four hours before firefighters extinguished the fire.
There wasn’t nothing we could do but sit and watch,” said Lloyd Caston, a member of the church. “It destroyed the church and everything in it.”
McLaurin’s arrest comes amid a string of bomb threats to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) around the country.
After a slew of bomb threats kicked off 2022 and impacted dozens of HBCUs, the FBI’s initial investigation uncovered that unidentified tech-savvy juveniles were likely the culprits. But there has not been much accountability.
Krysten Henley, a senior who majors in human performance at Howard, admitted that the ordeal is taking its toll on her.
“At first, the bomb threats didn’t bother me. But after multiple threats, lockdowns, and evacuations, it is starting to scare me a bit,” Henley said during a recent conversation.
Sadly, threats of violence against HBCUs are not new. Black colleges have been targets for decades including arson attacks, bomb threats, and threats of gun violence.
In January 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that they would “deepen our partnerships with HBCUs to protect students and faculty from an evolving range of threats.”
DHS announced in August that it would be providing $250 million of assistance through its Nonprofit Security Grant Program to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack.
Devin McLaurin will not be the last person to try to terrorize a community with fire, but maybe his arrest will deter some from following in his footsteps. Let’s keep everyone in Mississippi involved in the fires in our prayers.
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