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Man charged in package bombing of Texas church, attempted bombing of Starbucks

Posted at 4:46 PM, May 25, 2018

A suspect has been arrested in the package bombing at a church in Beaumont, Texas, as well as a bomb found outside a Starbucks coffee shop that did not detonate, authorities said Friday.

Jonathan M. Torres, 40, of Beaumont, was charged Friday with use of an explosive to cause property damage; possession of an unregistered destructive device (improvised destructive device); and mailing a threatening communication, according to court records.

Torres' first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday. CNN is trying to reach a representative for Torres.

"Based on what we found inside the suspect's home, this suspect had the resources and the ability to continue building these devices, and the incidents were increasing in their destructive impact," said Joe Brown, US attorney in the Eastern District of Texas.

Edward Michel, FBI assistant special agent in charge, said, "We don't have any reason to believe there are any other devices out there, and we have mitigated this threat."


Authorities shared little information about Torres. He goes to a job and does not live alone, said Fred Milanowski of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He gave no other details.

Explosion outside church

The package exploded outside on the front steps of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on May 9 or 10, two weeks after another package bomb was found outside a coffee shop in the southeastern Texas city and rendered safe.

"At this point, we believe the two devices are connected," Officer Haley Morrow of the Beaumont Police Department told CNN on Thursday.

The two incidents happened weeks after a series of package bombings terrorized people in and near the Texas cities of Austin and San Antonio.

Police say that bomber killed himself as police approached his vehicle March 21. He'd made seven bombs, including those thatkilled two people and wounded several others in March.

The church explosion in Beaumont caused minor damage to the building, police said. The church's rector discovered the damage, the Right Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, said in a statement.

"We are very blessed that no one was injured," the rector, the Rev. Steven Balke, said in a separate statement released by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. "We appreciate everyone's prayers at this time. It has made everyone very nervous."

Earlier bomb found nearby

The blast came two weeks after police said a package bomb was found, but did not explode, outside a Starbucks in Beaumont, about two miles northwest of the church.

In the April 26 incident, a package was discovered outside the Starbucks in the early morning, and a worker moved it inside the store. While trying to open it, the worker noticed a note, then took the package back outside before contacting police, authorities said. Police didn't reveal the contents of the note.

Investigators determined the package was an explosive device, and bomb technicians rendered it safe, police said.

ATF details devices, messages

A statement filed in court by Jennifer Doreck, special agent of the ATF, provides the following details about the investigation.

The Starbucks package contained explosive material and a mousetrap designed to set off the bomb when the box was opened. In the package was an index card with peel-and-stick letters that read "HAJI DIE USA -- JH," the statement said.

Beaumont police received a similar note April 27 that read, "DO YOU WANT BMT TO BECOME ANOTHER AUSTIN" and was signed "J HANCOCK," the statement said.

After the church explosion, components similar to those in the Starbucks package were found, including a mousetrap and small nails and screws, the statement said.

In November 2016, Torres had reported to police that his then-roommate, John Hancock, stole four firearms.