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FBI helps boost reward for Kingdom Hall attacks to up to $61,000

Fire at Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall in Olympia(Olympia fire Department)

SEATTLE – The ATF says the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for a string of attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses halls in the past year has been increased to up to $61,000, with the Federal Bureau of Investigations offering up to $25,000 this week.

The ATF says it’s also offering up to $25,000, the Arson Alarm Foundation is offering a reward from its annual $10,000 fund and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office is offering up to another $1,000 through Crime Stoppers of South Sound.

There have been seven separate attacks on Kingdom and Assembly Halls of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Thurston County since March 2018.  They are:

  • March 19, 2018:  Two arson attacks – one at a Tumwater Kingdom Hall and the second at a Kingdom Hall on Cain Road in Olympia.  Damage to both was minor, limited to the exterior structures.
  • May 15, 2018: An unknown suspect or suspects shot and struck a Kingdom Hall in Yelm with about 35 .223 rifle rounds, causing more than $10,000 in damage to the structure.
  • July 3, 2018:  An arson completely destroyed the Olympia Kingdom Hall on Cain Road.  This was the same Kingdom Hall that was damaged in the March 19 attack.
  • Aug. 8, 2018.  A fire was set against the back fence at the rear of the Kingdom Hall in Yelm, but members were able to put the fire out.  This fire caused minimal damage to the fence and a back wall of the Kingdom Hall.  This was the same location where someone fired rifle rounds at it on May 15.
  • Dec. 7, 2018:  An arson completely destroyed the Lacey Kingdom Hall on 6th Ave SE.
  • Aug. 13, 2019:  A fire was set at the Puyallup Assembly Hall on 62nd Ave E., causing relatively minor damage to an outside wall and overhang.

The ATF says the incidents are all close to each other and believed to be related.

No injuries have been reported in any of the incidents.

“It is inevitable that innocent people will be injured or killed if these incidents go unchecked,” said Seattle Field Division Special Agent in Charge Darek Pleasants after the December 2018 fire.  “We take events at houses of worship very seriously and are appealing to those who live in and around Thurston and the surrounding counties to partner with us in protecting their communities in this investigation.”

The ATF believes that these incidents were meant to send a message, that the suspect or suspects has or have a grievance related to the Jehovah’s Witness community, or about another issue they think is important.  The ATF says before these fires, the person or persons involved are likely to have shared these strong feelings with others through comments and conversation.

The ATF believes that the individual or individuals responsible for these incidents may have also exhibited changes in behavior in the hours and days since the fires, to include:

  • Dramatic and unexplained altering of physical appearance (growth or removal of facial hair, change in hair color or cut, etc.);
  • Change in normal routines or habits, which might include missing work, classes, or previously scheduled appointments;
  • Unexplained injuries;
  • Intense interest in the status of this investigation.

Anyone having information on the fires or shooting should call ATF’s toll free hotline at 888-ATF-TIPS (283-8477), Crime Stoppers of South Sound at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or the Arson Alarm Foundation at 1-800-55-ARSON (1-800-552-7766).  Callers may remain anonymous.

More information about ATF and its programs are available at www.atf.gov.

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