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Authorities Investigating Vandalism, Explosion At El Monte Church

EL MONTE (CBSLA) -- Authorities are investigating vandalism and a possible explosion at an El Monte church Saturday morning.

First responders arrived at the scene around 1:13 a.m. in response to reports of smoke at First Works Baptist Church, 2600 Tyler Ave.

"When our units arrived to the scene they found that the First Works Baptist Church was having some smoke come out of the windows," said Lt Christopher Cano of the El Monte Police Department. "It appeared that the walls to the church had been vandalized as well as all the windows at first appeared to be smashed.

"Then, we realized that the windows were not smashed, [and] that they had actually blown out from some type of explosion."

The FBI said an improvised explosive device was found at the scene.

"The idea something like that would happen in this neighborhood is beyond comprehension," said neighbor Eugene Brown.

Firefighters cleared the scene by 4:23 a.m.,  officials said. However, other investigative units, including the FBI, remain.

The church, headed by Pastor Bruce Mejia, has been the focus of community protests in recent weeks due to what are perceived to be teachings against the LGBTQ community.

Mejia has said his doctrine since the church was launched three years ago includes condemnation of same-sex relationships.

"We can't say what the motive was for this attack I don't want to say those groups in any way were responsible for this," said El Monte Police Chief David Reynoso.

No one was injured in the explosion, and investigators are searching the area for security video.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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