A Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses was sprayed with gunfire early Tuesday morning and investigators with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office hopes the public can help them track down the shooters.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest.
This latest incident comes after a series of other incidents that have hit Jehovah’s Witness Halls in the county. (new paragraph here) The shooting happened in the 15000 block of Vail Road in Yelm. Investigators were on scene for most of the day Tuesday. Authorities say it does not appear to be a random shooting.
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The hall is in a rural area but the detective on scene who spoke to KIRO 7 discounted the possibility that the shooting was an accident. There were more than a dozen bullet holes and graze marks along the wall of the building.
Dennis Lynam says he’s belonged to the Vail Road congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses since he was a child and has kept watch over the building.
“It’s pretty sad. It’s the times we live in… These individuals, they need help themselves to figure out where they need to go in life. I just wish they’d realize this is (is a) wrongful thing. (There) could have been somebody in there,” Lynam said.
Detective Ben Elkins with the TCSO was wrapping up his investigation at the scene by early evening Tuesday and said damage on the outside was extensive.
“If somebody would have been inside the building then it could have been a lot worse than what we have here … this is clearly a targeted building and that’s based on the evidence we found here today,” Elkins said.
In one case, a suspect was caught on camera setting fire to a Jehovah’s Witness Hall. It was one of two suspected arsons against JW Halls in Thurston County.
Elkins says the latest crime in Yelm was different. “This is a weapon being used to fire into a building so it’s unclear if it’s the same person or person,” Elkins said. Investigators said they are open to all leads.
The TCSO wants the public’s help to track down the people responsible for the shooting and hopes someone saw or heard something Tuesday morning when the gunfire erupted.
Lynam says the shooting incident has not rattled his faith, though he does have a message for those who are responsible. “As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we look to God’s kingdom to change the effects of what’s happening today… they really need to think about what they’re doing and they can be forgiven as long as they repent from what they’re doing.”
There are no surveillance cameras at the Hall, though investigators hope to find other cameras in the area that may show something. Anyone with information is urged to call authorities.