Vandals Hit San Diego Worship Hall Three Times

SAN DIEGO --

Authorities are looking the person or people who tried to set fire to a local place of worship for the third time in two weeks.

Firefighters and police were called to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 2000 block of Adams Avenue in University Heights just after midnight Tuesday.

This time, authorities said the intruders cut a hole through a fence and poured gasoline inside the Kingdom Hall. They were unable to start a fire though, authorities said.

"The contents have been removed from the interior because of the prior incidents so the gasoline was poured throughout the open areas basically," said Fred Herrera, an investigator with the Metro Arson Strike Team.

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives could be seen snapping photos of matches left on the property.

According to authorities, the vandals ripped off several of the letters that spell out Kingdom Hall on the front of the building. Both references to Jehovah were removed. The letters were left in a pile nearby.

Investigators said they have a witness in Tuesday's case.

"We have a witness who noticed the fence was cut and he stood by and noticed the person come out and he pursued, but did not catch that person," said Herrera.

The witness told investigators the intruder's face was covered with a white mask. The intruder was wearing dark clothing, according to the witness.

Last Friday, a fire heavily damaged the building and "666" was spray painted near the entrance.

The first fire was reported around midnight on December 20. Intruders pried open the doors, stole audio equipment and then set the fire, which did minimal damage. Initially, police thought the fire was set to conceal the break in.

The Kingdom Hall is one of the oldest in San Diego.

San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria, who represents the area, said, "San Diegans must stand together against these senseless acts. I encourage anyone with information about the crimes to tell the authorities. Crime doesn't pay, but helping catch the responsible criminals may yield a reward."

A reward of up to $10,000 has been offered from Crime Stoppers and the ATF.

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