FBI investigating possible arson, explosion at Renton church

The FBI is investigating a possible arson or explosion that occurred at Renton's United Christian Church on Wednesday morning, the second attack on the church this week. It is unknown if the incidents are connected.

People in the neighborhood said they woke up to loud booms in the middle of the night.

“It was two explosions,” said Mike Monagham, who lives about a block away from the church.

Now people believe the noises came from fireworks that were apparently taped onto a display of rainbow doors outside the church, that read “God’s doors are open to all.”

The church said it put the display up on June 8 in celebration of Pride month to show its inclusivity.

“There were explosives taped to the back of the doors and you could see where the other ones had blown up, one did not go off,” said Bailey Laronde, who teaches preschool in a building right next to the church. She also took photos showing damage.

The FBI and ATF are investigating at least part of the string of vandalisms as a hate crime.

People in the LGBTQ community in the neighborhood say they’ve noticed the crimes are escalating in violence.

“It casts a sense of underlying fear in the neighborhood now. That’s what didn’t exist yesterday, and I think that’s a shame,” said Traci Hiller, who lives nearby.

Renton police tweeted that officers were in the area of the 15500 block of 116th Avenue Southeast investigating the incident shortly before 11 a.m. The tweet said there is no danger to the public.

The roadway was blocked during the investigation.

The Seattle bureau of the FBI is in charge of the investigation and will release more information. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was also on scene.

The church was the also the target of a possible hate crime over the weekend. The church doors, which read "God's doors are open to all," were set on fire.

Before the arson Monday, someone pushed the signs over twice.

United Christian Church said it needs to discuss additional security options and will also have to consider whether or not to replace the rainbow doors.

“Even for the person who did this, we hope their heart can be softened too - so that they can understand that really we’re here to love people and we believe God is here to love people,” said Jolynn Kenney, who is with United Christian Church.

The church will host a prayer vigil in response to the vandalisms at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, and everyone is invited.

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