AMHERST, N.Y. — Police in New York are investigating after a firebomb was thrown inside of a door at a non-denominational church on Saturday.
The incident occurred early Saturday morning at approximately 5:30 a.m. as a yet unidentified suspect threw a Molotov cocktail threw a glass door at the Chapel at Crosspoint in Getzville. The explosive then started a fire in the vestibule, which set off the sprinkler system and flooded the entryway.
The Getzville Fire Department and the Amherst Police Department responded to the four-alarm incident, according to assistant Police Chief Charles Cohen.
“The fire inspectors office determined up to $10,000 in water damage,” he said.
Police are now looking at surveillance footage from both the church and area businesses to obtain clues as to who might have thrown the explosive at the church. Officials are also considering whether the act can be considered a hate crime.
“There’s no way to stop it from happening again except for catching the person who did it this time,” Police Captain Captain Enzo Villalta told WIVB-TV. “We will conduct our investigation. It’s a very serious matter anytime somebody uses a firebomb particularly to religious facility.”
Services are still scheduled to move forward this morning at the Chapel at Crosspoint despite the incident.
“As authorities continue to investigate the minor damage to our facility and the motive behind it, we are reminded to continue in our mission of sharing the love of Christ with all people and to serving this great community we live in,” Jerry Gillis, the senior pastor, said in a statement. “We look forward to doing just that … as we gather for worship at our regularly scheduled worship times.”
The incident occurs just weeks after bombs were found planted at three houses of worship in New Mexico. As previously reported, last month, 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.
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.
Days later, a third bomb, which had not exploded, was discovered outside of the First Presbyterian Church of Las Cruces by a groundskeeper. The device had been inserted inside the sprinkler box by the front door. 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.