LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Two improvised explosive devices were detonated outside of two separate Las Cruces churches Sunday morning.
“These devices were intended to do harm, I believe, and could have done harm to people,” said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas.
The first incident happened around 8:20 a.m. outside of the Calvary Baptist Church. Police say a bomb left in a mailbox near the church offices exploded, damaging the building.
About twenty minutes later, another explosion at the Holy Cross Catholic Church a few minutes away. The explosive device there was placed in a trash can. About 200 to 300 people were inside the church for mass when the explosion occurred.
No one was hurt in either incident, but workers at Holy Cross say had the explosion detonated only about 10 minutes later, it could have seriously injured — maybe even killed — parishioners leaving Mass.
Craig Bullock, who was only feet from the explosion at Holy Cross, said he initially thought someone fired a shotgun.
Bullock then looked outside and saw white smoke and debris.
“It could have been kids not understanding how much damage they were going to do, it could have been someone looking to kill someone, I don’t know, but it’s a terrible thing,” Bullock said.
Over at Calvary Baptist, it was Pastor Kevin Glenn’s first day on the job. He says he can’t understand why someone would target his church.
“Places of worship seem to elicit some sort of response by individuals that evidently have a lot of pain and hurt in their own lives,” Glenn said. “And they believe the best way to deal with that is to inflict pain and hurt on others.”
The FBI, ATF and local and state agencies are now looking into who left the devices. Investigators aren’t saying definitively that the two incidents are connected. Governor Susana Martinez, R-NM, had strong words for the culprit.
“If your intention was to bring fear to those who worship, you have failed,” Martinez said.
No one is in custody for the attacks, and no suspects have been named. Investigators say they are following several leads and encourage people with information to call 1-800-CALL-FBI. Las Cruces Police are also offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
“Someone out there saw something, someone out there knew something,” FBI Agent Bryan Finnegan said. “And if this actor is listening, turn yourself in. Get this over with.”