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by: Kristina Bravo, additional reporting by Alexis Lewis
El Monte police are investigating an early Saturday explosion at a church whose stance against same-sex relationships has raised tensions in the community in recent weeks.
Law enforcement officials responded to the First Works Baptist Church at 2600 Tyler Ave. along with the L.A. County Fire Department at around 1:15 a.m., Lt. Christopher Cano said.
Patrol officers who heard an explosion in the area initially thought it was a transformer, Cano said. The department received multiple calls about the noise, and officers later found the source to be a church with broken windows from which smoke was coming out, according to the lieutenant.
The windows had “blown out from some type of explosion,” Cano said. The walls outside had been vandalized with profanity.
Police were not aware of any injuries, Cano said. They called for a bomb squad from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department “just to ensure we have no secondary devices,” he added.
Labeled a hate group for being “anti-LGBTQ” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the First Works Baptist Church is the subject of a Change.org campaign that’s seeking to oust the place of worship out of El Monte. The petition was started three weeks ago and has so far garnered more than 14,790 signatures.
According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pastor Bruce Mejia had recently reported an arson threat on social media, and that police Chief David Reynoso said his department was monitoring the situation. Some residents had called the pastor’s sermons hate speech during public comments at an El Monte City Council meeting earlier in January, the paper reported.
A group called Keep El Monte Friendly had planned a protest at the church this Sunday morning. On Saturday, the group said of the incident on Instagram: “We are aware of what’s happening. We will update the page when we have more information. Stay safe everyone.”
The First Works Baptist Church did not immediately respond to KTLA’s request for comment.
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