Arrests made in East Texas church arsons

TYLER?Authorities announced on Feb. 21 the arrest of two men in connection with a string of church arsons that began on Jan. 1.

Members of the East Texas Church Arson Task Force arrested Jason Robert Bourque, 19, of Lindale, Texas and Daniel George McAllister, 21, of Ben Wheeler, Texas, in connection with the 10 church arsons. The fires occurred in Henderson, Smith and Van Zandt counties.

The arrests were made following a tip made to an ATF hotline, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said in a news release on Feb. 21.

“This investigation is not complete. No investigation is finished until guilt is proven in court. But today marks a significant milestone.” said Robert Champion, special agent in charge of the ATF in Dallas. “The arsons in these communities have been devastating but the citizens have been resilient and aided each other and the investigation.”

“Cooperation is the cornerstone to successful investigations and here in East Texas it is no different. ATF has been a proud partner in this case. We had over 70 agents, both local and members of two National Response Teams working on this investigation since the beginning. All agencies involved will continue to work together towards our goal of a successful prosecution of those involved in these crimes,” Champion said.

Since the New Year, there have been 11 Texas church fires and 10 confirmed as arson. Five of those churches have been Baptist churches and four of them are Southern Baptist congregations: Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens, Little Hope Baptist Church in Canton, Tyland Baptist Church in Tyler and Dover Baptist Church in Smith County.

Earlier, federal investigators upped the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonists to $25,000 from earlier figures of $10,000 and $5,000. Authorities released composite sketches of three suspects on Feb. 11.

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