Federal and local authorities are investigating a vandalism and explosion that occurred Saturday night at a church in Los Angeles County that was recently the subject of disputes over its language against the LGBTQ community and other minority groups.
According to NBC Partner Station in Los Angeles, KNBC, El Monte police and FBI officers responded overnight to reports of an IED attack on First Works Baptist Church.
Chief of Police David Reynoso said later Saturday that an “improvised explosive device”
Laura Emiler, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles, said authorities had not yet taken anyone into custody in connection with the blast and that officers had not yet determined the motive.
“We have not ruled out anything,” she added, the Times reported.
KNBC added that no injuries were reported in the blast.
The FBI field office call a call on Twitter for public assistance in identifying those responsible for the attack, adding a contact number for people to send advice with any relevant information.
The FBI responded overnight with @elmontepolice & @LASDHQ to an #IED attack at First Works Baptist Church in El Monte, California. Bomb Techs and the FBI’s evidence team continue to work on the scene. If you have advice about the responsible party, please call 3104776565. #SeekingInfo pic.twitter.com/LobrjbrZtx
– FBI Los Angeles (@FBILosAngeles) January 23, 2021
According to the Times, Bruce Magia, the pastor of First Works, told police about two weeks ago that he had received a threat of arson on social media.
The church has been criticized in its community petition calling on the mayor of El Monte to recognize the church as a hate group and “take them out of our city,” he received more than 15,000 signatures.
First Works is part of the New Independent Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement, an international network of churches that Southern Center for Poverty notes contain individuals who have called for the execution of LGBTQ people.
In 2019, Meija was among the speakers at the Make America Straight Again conference in Orlando, Florida, two days after the third anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
According to the Times, Meiji also claims that the Black Lives Matter movement has a “vicious agenda” and characterizes women as “weak.”
The local LGBTQ rights organization Keep El Monte Friendly had originally planned a protest at the church on Saturday morning, but later canceled the event in response to the attack.
“We are in deep shock and we hope that no one was injured during this tragedy,” the group wrote in statement on Instagram. “Our movement aimed to bring light and awareness to the hateful rhetoric taught by this group. We understand that what they preach can upset people. However, we will never encourage, encourage or justify violence or harm. “
Reynoso added on Saturday, “there is no way we can say that anyone involved in the demonstrations is involved or responsible for this crime.”