Two explosives went off at Las Cruces churches on Sunday, prompting evacuations and cancellations of services.
No one was injured and the damage to property was described as minor. Still, the explosions prompted investigations from both local police and federal investigators.
The explosions took place at Holy Cross Catholic Church and Calvary Baptist Church, just minutes apart.
Calvary Baptist Church wrote a statement on Facebook.
“We are grateful that everyone on campus is safe and for the prompt response of the authorities,” the post said. “Calvary continues to pray for our community and watch for any opportunity God may give us to serve and help Las Cruces in the days and months ahead.”
“We are One Body and Bishop Cantu asks that we not be deterred from showing our solidarity by continuing to attend mass,” Holy Cross Baptist Church said in a statement.
From the Las Cruces Sun-News:
State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said the acts were certainly intended to terrorize churchgoers, but he could not call it an act of terrorism at this time, or even confirm for certain that the two explosions were related.
The Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad, New Mexico State Police, and an NMSU canine unit are all assisting in the investigation, as are federal officials with the FBI, ATF and Department of Homeland Security, Las Cruces Police spokesman Dan Trujillo said.
The Albuquerque Journal had more from Kassetas:
“These are not firecrackers,” he said. “These devices were intended, I believe, to do harm and could have done harm to people.”
He added, “Someone put some time and effort into this, we believe.”
Gov. Susana Martinez traveled to the southern New Mexico city to receive a briefing on the explosions and later addressed the media.
According to the Associated Press, she said the “coward” who set off the bombs would be brought to justice. She also encouraged New Mexicans to continue to attend services.
“We appreciate that all levels of law enforcement are involved in the investigation,” U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce said in a statement. “Please keep the two church communities and all those affected in your prayers. Thank you.”
“Let us all make absolutely clear that New Mexico will not tolerate violence against our houses of worship or attempts to spread fear and division among us,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said in a statement. “The way this community has responded, coming together to find strength in one another and in their faith, is an example we should all look to as we make clear that we all stand with our friends in Las Cruces.”
“New Mexicans will not tolerate this unconscionable violence or attempts to instill fear in our places of worship,” Sen. Tom Udall said. “I’m thankful to the law enforcement officers who responded swiftly yesterday and to those who continue to investigate, and I hope that those responsible will be caught promptly and brought to justice.”
An interfaith vigil took place at Pioneer Park in Las Cruces Sunday evening in support of the churches that were victims of the explosions.
A suspicious package at Calvary Chapel in Albuquerque that prompted an evacuation and a police response turned out to be a false alarm.
Update 10:45 a.m.: Added a quote by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich.
Updaet 1:05 p.m.: Added a quote by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall.