>>Allyson Waller and Michael Levenson, The New York Times
Published: 2021-01-24 22:03:53 BdST
Police responded to reports of an explosion at the church, First Works Baptist Church, in El Monte, California, just after 1 am Saturday.
An “improvised explosive device” was found to be the source of the attack, said Chief David Reynoso of the Police Department in El Monte, which is about 13 miles east of Los Angeles. Officials did not elaborate on what they found.
No one was in the church at the time, and no injuries were reported. Authorities found obscenities and the words “get out” spray-painted on the front of the church, Reynoso said.
Laura Eimiller, a spokesperson with the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said no one had been taken into custody and that it was too early to determine a motive behind the bombing. “We have not ruled anything out,” she said.
Eimiller said bomb technicians from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office were working with the FBI and its evidence response team to assess the damage.
Reynoso said the church had broken windows but, structurally, the building “does not appear to be damaged.”
About two weeks ago, Bruce Mejia, pastor of the church, reported to the police that it had received an arson threat on social media, Reynoso said.
The church had been the target of protests, and more than 14,000 people have signed an online petition calling on El Monte’s mayor to recognize the church as a hate group and “take them out of our city.”
First Works Baptist Church was founded in 2017, according to its website. It is part of the New Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement, a network of 22 US. and eight international churches known for their hateful rhetoric and calls for the government to round up and execute gay people, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2019.
The city’s mayor, Jessica Ancona, said the bombing was “highly concerning” and called for a full investigation.
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