South Sound News

Police: Possible arsonist targets Jehovah's Witnesses kingdom halls

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Police are investigating two arsons in Kingdom Halls of Jehovah's Witnesses in Thurston County Monday morning.

Surveillance video shows the fire starting just after 4:00 a.m. at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses at 2255 Cain Road SE in Olympia. It smouldered and wasn't discovered until 8:30am. Firefighters responded and put out the fire.

Fire investigators say the fire was started on an exterior wall with the use of an accelerant, like gasoline.

Olympia Police released surveillance video of the arsonist setting the fire hoping someone would recognize him.
"We are hoping the gait, the build, the walk, the mannerisms are things people in the public might recognize," said Lt. Sam Costello, Olympia Police Department, "His hand probably got burned potentially. If his face was covered entirely that probably got burned. His clothes may have evidence of burning, that may be a clue."

Firefighters were able to keep the fire from extending to the attic. Investigators say the smell of petroleum, similar to gasoline, has them suspecting it is the work of an arsonist.

No one was in the building at the time the fire started.

Less than a 30 minutes later, a fire was reported at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Tumwater.

Firefighters put out the fire that started in a similar manner. They called in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to investigate the fires, which appear to be related.

Police and fire warned other Kingdom Halls of Jehovah's Witnesses in the area to be on alert.

"If they could do this they could do it again," said Tumwater Fire Chief Scott LaVielle,"We're worried about that and want to make sure the whole Thurston County area is vigilant."

The fire in Olympia caused about $50,000 in damage to the structure. The damage in Tumwater is more than $15,000.

No one was injured in either fire.

More news from KIRO 7