ATF releases profile of persons of interest behind arsons at Jehovah's Witnesses halls

VIDEO: Investigators identify persons of interest in string of arsons

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive told KIRO 7 Tuesday that several persons of interest have been identified in connection to a string of arsons and attacks on Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls in Thurston County.

“There has been persons of interest who have been developed at this time,” said ATF Seattle’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jonathan E. Blais. “[They’re] being looked at, they’re being spoken to.”

The ATF released to KIRO 7 a profile of an individual or the individuals they believe is behind the Kingdom Hall arsons.

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“They’re fairly accurate,” said Blais.

The ATF said it believes these attacks were meant to send a message and the suspect(s) has a grievance related to the Jehovah’s Witness community. The suspect(s) has likely shared those strong feelings with others, possibly through social media, according to the ATF.

The agency’s profiler believes the suspect(s) may have also experienced changes in behavior:

  • Dramatic and unexplained altering of physical appearance (growth or removal of facial hair, change in hair color or cut, etc.)
  • Change in normal routines or habits, which might include missing work, classes, or previously scheduled appointments
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Intense interest in the status of this investigation

There have been six attacks this year at halls in Yelm, Tumwater, Olympia and Lacey.

  • On March 19, there was an arson at a Tumwater Kingdom Hall and one at a location in Olympia.
  • On May 15, shots were fired into a Kingdom Hall in Yelm.
  • On July 3, another arson occurred at the Olympia location.
  • On August 8, a suspicious device and an arson happened at the location in Yelm.
  • On December 8, an arson destroyed a Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Lacey.

There have been no reported injuries in the incidents.

Investigators believe the incidents are connected.

Up to $36,000 in total rewards are now available.

The ATF believes that the person or persons of interest has or have a grievance related to the Jehovah’s Witness community, or about another issue they think is important.  Officials said before the fires, the person or persons involved was likely to have shared these strong feelings with others through comments and conversation.

ATF believes that the individual or individuals responsible for these incidents may have also exhibited changes in behavior in the hours and days since the fires, to include:

  • Dramatic and unexplained altering of physical appearance (growth or removal of facial hair, change in hair color or cut, etc.)
  • Change in normal routines or habits, which might include missing work, classes, or previously scheduled appointments
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Intense interest in the status of this investigation

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or the ATF at 1-888-ATF-TIPS.

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