Suspects sought in attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Halls

Six fires have been set since March 2018, and a Kingdom Hall in Yelm was allegedly shot at dozens of times.

By Asia Fields / The Seattle Times

Officials are still searching for suspects in a string of arsons and a gunfire attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Halls in Thurston and Pierce counties.

Six fires have been set since March 2018, and a Kingdom Hall in Yelm was shot at dozens of times, according to a statement from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Seattle.

No one was injured in the attacks, but two Kingdom Halls were destroyed.

“It is inevitable that innocent people will be injured or killed if these incidents go unchecked,” ATF Seattle Special Agent in Charge Darek Pleasants said in a statement.

Officials believe the attacks, which occurred as recently as last month, are connected. They are asking the public for information that could lead to a suspect, who is believed to have a personal grievance with the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, according to ATF.

The fires started March 19, 2018, when Kingdom Halls in Tumwater and Olympia sustained minor damage. Two months later, a Kingdom Hall in Yelm was fired upon with 35 rifle rounds, causing more than $10,000 in damage, according to ATF.

The same places of worship in Olympia and Yelm were targeted again that summer. The Olympia hall on Cain Road was destroyed in July. In Yelm, congregation members put out a fire set to the back fence of the hall in August before it caused major damage.

In December, a Kingdom Hall in Lacey was destroyed in a fire. And in August of this year, a fire in Puyallup damaged an exterior wall and overhang.

Officials believe the person or people responsible for the attacks likely expressed their grievances related to the Jehovah’s Witnesses community before acting. They may have dramatically changed their appearance and routines after the attacks, sustained unexplained injuries or shown intense interest in law-enforcement’s investigation, according to ATF.

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