A fire last week at a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ house of worship in Washington state was arson, making it the fifth attack targeting the religious group this year, federal officials said Sunday.
According to Jason Chudy, spokesperson for the Seattle Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the blaze early on Friday destroyed a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Lacey, a suburb of Olympia. No one was injured in Friday’s blaze and no arrests have been made.
Three other Kingdom Halls in Thurston County were burnt, and a fourth Kingdom Hall was hit by gunfire, according to the ATF.
The incidents took place in close proximity to one another and are trusted to be related, according to the ATF.
Speaking to reporters after Friday’s blaze in Lacey, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza revealed that there have been “many attacks” on Kingdom Halls in the county.
Snaza said it’s shocking to think of someone attacking houses of worship out of “some sort of animosity towards any religion.”
The sheriff noted that local Jehovah’s Witnesses are “terrified.”
Considering the Friday blaze, Gov. Jay Inslee critisized the attack on social media. “The freedom to worship is a right that should be protected for every person in our country,” he wrote.
On March 19, arson attacks resulted to minor damage to a Kingdom Hall in Tumwater, south of Olympia, and to the Cain Road Kingdom Hall in Olympia, the ATF said. No one was wounded in those blazes. On May 15, a Kingdom Hall in Yelm was hit by about 35 rifle rounds, causing more than $10,000 in damage, the ATF said.
The ATF said, one more blaze torched the Olympia Kingdom Hall on July 3.
An elder, Dan Woollett, who helped to build the Lacey house of worship decades ago, told CNN affiliate KCPQ he was shattered.
He told the station, “It’s just a building, “Everybody’s safe, and that’s the important thing.”