The FBI has launched an investigation after a bomb was thrown at an anti-LGBT church in California just weeks after the pastor received an arson attack threat.
Police and fire crews were called to the First Works Baptist Church at 2600 Tyler Avenue in El Monte in the early hours of Saturday morning to reports of an explosion.
The FBI said an improvised explosive device had been thrown at the building and it had also been covered in graffiti.
No one was injured in the attack, authorities said.
The church has been the center of controversy in the local area due to its stance against same-sex relationships and its teachings that residents have described as hate speech.
The FBI has launched an investigation after a bomb was thrown at anti-LGBT church First Works Baptist Church in California just weeks after the pastor received an arson attack threat. Pictured smoke coming out of the building
El Monte Police Lt. Christopher Cano said officers responded to the area at about 1:15 a.m. Saturday after hearing an explosion.
They arrived on the scene and noticed the windows were smashed before later realizing they had been blown out by the force of the blast.
'When our units arrived at the scene they found that (the church)… was having some smoke come out of the windows,' said Cano, per the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
'It appeared that the walls to the church had been vandalized as well as all the windows.
'[The windows] appeared at first to be smashed, then we realized that the windows were not smashed, that they had actually blown out from some type of explosion.'
Smartphone footage taken in the aftermath of the blast shows smoke coming out of the single-story building which was also vandalized with graffiti.
A voice is heard saying 'they threw like a bomb or something'.
'The whole f**ing earth shook. This is crazy,' they say.
Earlier this month, Pastor Bruce Meija (pictured) said he had contacted the police after receiving a threat on social media of an arson attack
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the church a hate group
Sirens are heard in the distance and multiple police cars are seen racing to the scene.
A bomb squad was called in to check for any secondary devices.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the agency is investigating the 'IED attack' as a possible hate crime.
'Anytime a house of worship is attacked, we will respond,' Eimiller said.
'If it was motivated in any way by hate, that's always a working theory when a house of worship is attacked, although that has not been confirmed.'
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department has set up a command post close to the church following the attack, reported the Tribune.
The bombing comes just two weeks after Pastor Bruce Meija said he had contacted the police after receiving a threat on social media of an arson attack.
Smartphone footage taken in the aftermath of the blast shows smoke coming out of the single-story building which was also vandalized with graffiti
Sirens are heard in the distance and multiple police cars are seen racing to the scene
The motive for the attack is not known but it comes amid growing outrage toward Mejia and First Works due to the church's anti-LGBT teachings.
A protest was held outside the church last Sunday while residents blasted the church's teachings as hate speech at a recent El Monte City Council meeting.
A Change.org petition to remove the place of worship from the community had reached almost 15,000 signatures Saturday.
The group that organized the protests, Keep El Monte Friendly, issued a statement expressing 'profound shock' at Saturday's attack and announcing a protest planned for Sunday would be canceled.
'We understand that what they preach can make people upset. However, we would never promote, encourage or condone any violence or acts of harm,' the group wrote.
El Monte Police Chief David Reynoso and another officer stand outside the First Works Baptist Church tagged with graffiti Saturday in the aftermath of the blast
Outrage has been mounting in the community over Mejia's teachings condemning same-sex relationships. A protest was held outside the church last Sunday while residents blasted the church's teachings as hate speech at a recent El Monte City Council meeting
'Our intent is to unite the community and keep El Monte a safe place for all regardless of gender identity, race or sexual orientation.'
LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement following Saturday's attack that she was aware of the pastor's 'anti-LGBTQ+ and misogynistic sermons' but said that 'violence is never the answer.'
Since Mejia launched the church three years ago it has condemned same-sex relationships and the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled it a hate group.
In his sermons, Mejia has cited Bible verses that he says justify executing LGBT people and has said it is justifiable to murder a thief or pedophile.
He has also condemned the arrest of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenage shooter who traveled to Kenosha and shot dead two Black Lives Matter protesters and injured a third last year.
The controversial pastor has also told followers not to follow coronavirus safety measures or get vaccinated.