A $36,000 cash reward has been announced by law enforcement authorities.
Both Washington State police and federal authorities have begun to investigate a series of violent acts against houses of worship belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Washington. It is suspected that the list of acts includes multiple arsons as well.
Authorities responded quickly to a fire on December 7 which badly damaged a hall catering to Jehovah’s Witness activities in the city of Lacey. The fire was confirmed intentional by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The building is now totally unusable and deemed to be beyond repair. The attack took place around four in the morning. No one was in injured in the attack. Authorities said the fire was the latest in a total of six attacks which took place against places generally used for worship by Jehovah's Witnesses in Thurston County.
As per local media reports, the Thurston County attack against the area's Jehovah's Witness centers, also known as Kingdom Halls, follows two attacks that took place in Olympia and Tumwater. The Olympia venue has been attacked twice. The first involved arson causing minor damage, and the second involved a blaze which obliterated the worship space.
The Yelm Center suffered damages in May when an arsonist shot approximately 35 rifle rounds targeted at the center. The resulting damage, as per the church authorities was over $10,000. In August investigators found a fake bomb inside the Yelm Kingdom Hall.
The law enforcement authorities believe all incidents to be related. The same has been conveyed by Jason Chudy, a spokesman for ATF Seattle. He said the attacks were executed to “send a message.” In an email to the media, he said his department has reason to believe the suspect(s) may have a grudge against Jehovah's Witnesses. He added the perpetrators involved in this criminal activity have in all probability shared strong feelings via conversation and comments.
Friends, pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Washington State someone is burning our Kingdom Halls. No injuries. You can Google it. Jehovah Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Lacey Washington.
— Cassandra OBanner (@Mzobanner) December 11, 2018
Chudy also said it is the belief of the ATF the suspects could have shown behavioral changes in months, weeks, or hours after the fire. This could include variation from the normal routine, unexplained injuries, and dramatic physical appearance alteration.
The ATF, along with the Thurston County police, is offering $36,000 for any information leading to the apprehension of the suspects.