Police investigating explosion, vandalism at Southern California church

1 month ago 27
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Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Police are investigating an explosion and vandalism at a church in southern California.

At 1 a.m. Saturday, police were called to First Works Baptist Church in El Monte, Calif., about 16 miles east of Los Angeles, where they found the walls of the church sprayed with graffiti and smoke coming out the church's window.

Police initially thought the window had been broken, but then realized they had been blown out by an explosion.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents responded along with El Monte Police Department officers and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to what the FBI called an "IED attack" -- or improvised explosive device -- attack at the church.

"Bomb Technicians and an Evidence Response Team are processing the scene which sustained damage. No injuries are reported," the FBI Los Angeles field office said in a statement.

Police did not provide any further details.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the bureau is considering hate crime as a possible motive but that nothing has been ruled out so early in the investigation.

According to local media reports, the church was launched three years ago and has been the focus of some local protests and a petition to the city's mayor to shut the church down due to its condemnation of same-sex relationships.

The church's website says members believe "that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination which God punishes with the death penalty."

The church has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A group called Keep El Monte Friendly, which had planned a protest Sunday, issued a statement Saturday condemning the vandalism and canceling the demonstration.

Pastor Bruce Mejia has not commented on the attack.

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