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Kingdom Hall destroyed by second arson fire; $6,000 reward offered to help solve


OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Olympia damaged by fire in March by an arsonist -- goes up in flames again.

Olympia Police say the blaze that destroyed the place of worship on July 3rd was -- again -- deliberately set.

In the past four months the congregation has been targeted multiple times: In Yelm, a Kingdom Hall was shot at. Fires were set at Kingdom Halls in Tumwater and Olympia in March and last week's fire marked a fourth attack.

It's an incredible loss, because it is a total loss of a community's place of worship. When firefighters rushed to the scene overnight on Tuesday, July 3rd, flames were shooting through the roof. By the time the flames were gone, the roof was caved in and the inside was even worse.

So all day at the corner of Cain and 22nd drivers did double takes, pedestrians stopped and stared while others couldn’t stop talking about the destruction in front of them.

“That could be our church,” Olympia resident Karen Sullivan said.

For Larry Sherman, it is his church. “It will be rebuilt,” Sherman said.

It's the second time Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses will be rebuilding their Olympia location. Less than four months ago, an arsonist caught on camera caused thousands of dollars in damages. The second fire on July 3rd, that officals confirm was, again, intentionally set was worse, causing a total loss of the Kingdom Hall.

Olympia police and the ATF are looking for the suspect from both the March fire and the most recent blaze at the Olympia Kingdom Hall. In the March fire, a man wearing a shirt with a hoodie over his head was caught on video walking up to the building with what appeared to be jugs. The video then shows the man pouring the substance from the jugs on the Olympia church and flames erupting. “He was wearing a ski mask kind of thing so I couldn’t see his face,” Sherman said.

Sherman is an elder at the Kingdom Hall and says the series of fires are disappointing but it’s not keeping his spirit down.

Investigators are working to see if the same man from the March incident could be to blame for the latest blaze.

“I can’t imagine somebody having that much hate to reset it,” Sullivan said.

The two fires at the Olympia Kingdom Hall are not the only incidents targeting the congregation in the past several months.

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses also had to clean up their Tumwater location after an arson in March as well.

“It’s an attack on the whole community when you have a fire like this,” Robert Bradley with Olympia Fire Department said.

Someone also fired multiple shots into their Kingdom Hall in Yelm .

Bullets shattering glass, piercing a chair and multiple walls.

Despite everything the congregation has been through, members say they will get through it all together.

“We all have each other so we come together as a family,” Kingdom Hall member Vicki Branum said.

Olympia Police say they detained a man who they spotted around 3am during the time of the fire. The man was several blocks away on foot and had his face partially covered. He was arrested for having a Department of Corrections warrant, but Police confirm the man is not a suspect in the arson, or even a person of interest at this time.

A reward is being offered to help solve these disturbing Kingdom Hall attacks in Thurston County.

Together, the ATF and Crime Stoppers of the South Sound are offering a total of $6,000 for information that leads to any arrests in the cases.

You can report it anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477), or by using the P3 Tips App on your phone to submit the information.