Quick action by police limit arson damage at New Roads church - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Quick action by police limit arson damage at New Roads church

Roleisha Munson (Source: Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff's Office) Roleisha Munson (Source: Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff's Office)
Damage from the fire at St. Augustine Catholic Church in New Roads. (Source: State Fire Marshal) Damage from the fire at St. Augustine Catholic Church in New Roads. (Source: State Fire Marshal)
POINTE COUPEE PARISH, LA (WAFB) -

Quick action by uniformed patrol officers prevented a suspected arson at a church from causing too much damage.

"They did excellent work," said New Roads Police Chief Kevin McDonald about the responding officers. "They were right on top of it."

Officers Travis Whitney and Tavis Dixon were patrolling the area near St. Augustine Parish church when they noticed smoke.

"Fortunately, it was discovered very early on by the very attentive patrolmen, so firefighters were able to put it out quickly," said Deputy Brant Thompson, State Fire Marshal's Office. "There was no interior damage because it was contained mostly to the exterior."

Investigators with the Fire Marshal's Office were called out and quickly identified obvious signs of foul play.

"It's still very early in the investigation, but they did locate two areas of origin on the building," Thompson explained. "The first fire set did not develop, and it appears some cardboard was used. In the area that did cause damage, we believe [the suspect] used ordinary combustibles, such as paper products."

The investigating officers believe Roleisha Munson, 33, is responsible for setting the blaze.

"She had been seen by the officers earlier in the evening in possession of a cigarette lighter as well as sanitary napkins, which were items that were found at the scene," Thompson said. "Those items were collected and sent to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab to be processed."

Munson was allegedly in the area when officers began investigating. They say she became combative when they attempted to talk to her about the blaze.

"She ran from them and there was a tussle," Chief McDonald said.

Munson was arrested and charged with simple arson to a religious building, resisting arrest and battery of a police officer. She was booked into the Pointe Coupee Parish Prison, but investigators are having a difficult time trying to determine why she may have started the blaze.

"The church officials say they have not had any problems with her, but were familiar with her," Thompson said. "When she was brought to the police station and we attempted to interview her, she was very uncooperative. We certainly don't know of a motive at this time. It is possible she suffers from some type of mental disorder."

No one was injured from the fire.

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