LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Police are searching for clues after bombs were found planted this month outside of three houses of worship in New Mexico.
On August 2, police responded to a call about an explosion at Calvary Baptist Church in Las Cruces, where reportedly a bomb had been wrapped in newspapers and placed into a mailbox that had been bolted to the wall. The force of the explosion ripped the mailbox from the building, throwing it approximately 150 feet.
“A house of worship should be a place of peace; making the act of violence especially troubling for us all,” wrote newly-installed pastor Kevin Glenn on Facebook following the incident. “Only our Lord is able to provide ultimate security to each of us through Jesus Christ. However, in our daily lives we must be wise and vigilant to do everything possible to provide an environment within which all can feel both welcome and secure.”
Earlier that morning, a bomb had also been detonated while a Roman Catholic congregation was in the middle of its 8 a.m. service. It had been placed in a garbage can near the front door of the facility. One witness told reporters that he heard a bang followed by the sound of shattering glass.
“I didn’t know if it was a shotgun blast; I didn’t know what. But it was very loud,” said John Anderson of Holy Cross Catholic Church.
Last week, a third bomb, which had not exploded, was discovered outside of the First Presbyterian Church by a groundskeeper. The device had been inserted inside the sprinkler box by the front door. Minister Norman Story told the Las Cruces Sun that he was informed by the groundskeeper that the device was in the shape of a pipe and a timing mechanism was attached.
The high school across the street was placed on lockdown and businesses were evacuated while the authorities detonated the device and ensured that the area was safe.
“There’s a possibility all three [bombs] are related, but we have no evidence to directly connect them,” FBI Chief Division Counsel Stephan Marshall told reporters.
Police are currently looking for a subject of interest, who was seen in surveillance footage taken from Calvary Baptist. In the 20-second clip, a young man in plaid shorts and a blue t-shirt is seen carrying a bag as he walks near the building.
“Someone out there saw something. Someone out there knew something,” FBI assistant special agent Bryan Finnegan said during a news conference following the two explosions.
“And if this actor is listening, turn yourself in. Get this over with,” he continued. “We know you’re looking over your shoulder. We know you want to do the right thing and turn yourself in and to confess to this crime. Please do so as quickly as possible.”
The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, and the Las Cruces Crime Stoppers is offering $7,500.