An explosion that rocked a church in El Monte, a city in Los Angeles County, California, has prompted an investigation by the FBI on Saturday morning.
The FBI responded overnight with @elmontepolice & @LASDHQ to an #IED attack at the First Works Baptist Church in El Monte, CA. Bomb Techs & the FBI's Evidence Team continue to process the scene. If you have a tip about the responsible party, please call 3104776565. #SeekingInfo pic.twitter.com/LobrjbrZtx— FBI Los Angeles (@FBILosAngeles) January 23, 2021
The First Works Baptist church at 2600 Tyler Avenue was apparently bombed with "an IED," or a homemade or "improvised" explosive device, the FBI said.
Police and firefighters arrived at the scene early Saturday morning to find smoke coming out of the building, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.
The controversial church has had a history of being targeted. More recently, a demonstration was held following church members saying the government should execute gay people, San Bernardino hate-speech expert Brian Levin told San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said:
"As to the question of whether this was a hate crime, that's always going to be considered among the theories when a house of worship is attacked," Eimiller said. "But it would be premature to confirm any motive at this time, and we are not ruling any other motive out."
El Monte police Lt. Christopher Cano said, "it appeared that the walls to the church had been vandalized as well as all the windows.
The windows "appeared at first to be smashed, then we realized that the windows were not smashed, that they had blown out from some explosion," Cano said.
"Although we do not yet know the motive, I am aware of the anti-LGBTQ+ and misogynist sermons given by the pastor of First Works Baptist Church," L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement, "and my office has referred concerning matters about the pastor to the County's Human Rights Commission, who has been working in collaboration with the City of El Monte to de-escalate the situation."
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation, labels the church an anti-LBGTQ group on its website.
Numerous church members spoke at the "Make America Straight Again" conference in Orlando in 2019, according to SPLC.
Despite President Joe Biden's calls for "unity" to bring the fractured country together, it appears the escalation between the left and right are continuing.