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State and Federal law enforcement agencies are investigating after a package exploded outside an Episcopal Church in Beaumont, Texas. The rector of St Stephen’s Church in Beaumont, Steven Balke, said that nobody was injured in the explosion, which occurred between the end of worship on Wednesday evening and the start of the day at All Saints School on the Church’s campus. But the school was immediately evacuated as investigations began.
“The FBI is here and checking the property,” Balke said. “Everyone is taking this very seriously, especially since there is a school involved.”
The rector had been at a school breakfast before discovering the bomb damage. He expressed gratitude that the explosion occurred when the church was closed; saying that he or a staff member could have been severely injured if they had picked up the device. “We are very blessed that no one was injured,” he said, “We are grateful for the messages of support and for the prayers that we have had from friends in town and across the country," he said.
The head teacher of All Saints’ School, Scootie Clark, expressed pride in her pupils. “The kids were calm and respectful” as they left campus she said, explaining that she felt previous practice for emergency situations had been very valuable.
The Bishop of Texas responded swiftly to the incident, sending assistant bishop Hector Monterroso, diocesan communications director Carol Barnwell, and Canon for Mission Amplificatio Joann Saylors, to Beaumont to support Balke and his congregation. Today (Friday) two suffragan bishops in the Diocese, Jeff Fisher and Dena Harrison, will make a follow-up visit and go to the school.
“I am so grateful there were no injuries and that St Stephen's and All Saints School have very strong and wise leadership,” Bishop Andy said. “We must pray for the person who carried out this act of cowardice so that they might come to understand that God’s love waits for them.”
In a statement issued yesterday (Thursday), the Beaumont Police Department said that officers were called to the church at 9.18 am in response to “a call of Criminal Mischief”.
The statement continued: “When the officer arrived, he located what appeared to be a previously detonated package that caused minor damage to a building on the property. The FBI, in partnership with BPD and ATF is investigating this incident.
“We know that our citizens have many questions, however we are very early in the investigation and there are several things that we are unable to talk about. Included in subjects we are unable to discuss: components of the device, intended victims, motive, relationship (if any) to previous devices, and suspect or suspects.”
The police said that they were “working diligently with our law enforcement partners and using all available resources to investigate this and keep our citizens safe.” They urge residents to “See Something, Say Something” and say: “if you see anything that looks suspicious or out of place, please do not touch it. Keep a safe distance and call 911.”