New Mexico city sees heightened security after church blasts

AP News
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Posted: Aug 22, 2015 7:01 PM

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Heightened security persists in Las Cruces, where police and federal agents will sweep more than 100 churches for explosives this weekend.

Officers have been sweeping churches each weekend since the Aug. 2 explosions at a Baptist and a Catholic church, reported the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/1NMyixV ).

"It's just something we've got to do," said Las Cruces Police Chief Jaime Montoya. "It's something there is a dire need for, and we'll continue as long as we can."

Officers, federal agents and bomb-sniffing dogs will move unannounced from church to church this weekend, Montoya said. They'll be travelling in teams of four looking for anything or anyone suspicious.

Agents and officers from the FBI, Homeland Security, State Police, local police, New Mexico State University Police and Dona County Sheriff's Office are maintaining a presence Las Cruces, New Mexico's second-largest city.

No one was injured in the Aug. 2 blasts at Calvary Baptist Church and Holy Cross Catholic Church, but the force of the explosions sent shards flying, shattered a window and launched a mailbox nearly 200 feet.

No arrests have yet been made for those explosions or for the undetonated explosive device found at First Presbyterian Church on Aug. 14. Authorities believe the three cases may be connected.

Police detectives and federal agents brought together the three church leaders to discuss their positions on contentious topics, searching for a motive, Montoya said.

"That's the million-dollar question: motive," Montoya said. "There has to be something, why someone or some people are targeting these churches. We were trying to find something really off-the-wall that would connect those two (Calvary and Holy Cross) and Presbyterian."

"My sense is it's someone who has something against religion in general, or Christianity," said First Presbyterian's Rev. Norman Story. "We're in different places on theology."

Between the FBI, Las Cruces Crime Stoppers and Deming Crime Stoppers, more than $37,000 of reward money is being offered for tips that lead to an arrest in the cases.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com