Two arrested in connection with Texas church fires

(CNN) — Two men were arrested and charged Sunday in connection with a string of deliberately set church fires in east Texas, authorities said.

Jason Robert Bourque, 19, and Daniel George McAllister, 21, were charged with one count of arson each in a February 8 fire set at the Dover Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, according to the state Department of Public Safety. Authorities say they believe the men are connected to nine other church fires that have been set in the area since January 1.

Bourque and McAllister also are suspects in the attempted break-ins at three separate churches earlier this month, said Steve McCraw, director of the public safety department.

“East Texans can rest easier tonight,” McCraw said at a news conference announcing the arrests.

He called the arsons “despicable and cowardly acts.”

Officials declined to say what led to the arrests, citing an ongoing investigation.

Authorities on February 12 released sketches of three people sought in connection with the fires. On Sunday, officials said that those “persons of interest” are not related to this weekend’s arrests.

An 11th church arson in Temple, Texas, is not related to the other 10, said Robert Champion of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Dallas, Texas. Earlier this month, authorities said they were trying to determine whether the Temple fire was connected to the others.

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