Local and federal authorities are investigating an apparent explosion outside of a church and school campus in Beaumont, Texas.
According to current reports, an explosive device was placed and detonated on the joint campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and All Saints Episcopal School between late Wednesday night and the early hours of Thursday morning. The components of the device and indications toward motive were not made available by investigators as of Friday.
Parish leaders and a statement released by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas explained the device detonated after evening worship services on Wednesday and prior to the first class bell on Thursday. The Rev. Steven Balke, rector of St. Stephens, announced that no injuries were suffered.
The discovery of the blast outside the office door of the church did not occur until after 9am local time on Thursday, when classes were underway at All Saints. The Rev. Balke reportedly called police, triggering a campus lockdown and evacuation of students thereafter. School leadership commended the student body for following their emergency drill training during the episode.
“The teachers did a fabulous job,” said Melanie Hartfield, the schools advancement director, the release added that “not one child was scared.”
The lockdown period reportedly lasted 30 minutes before evacuation procedures began.
The diocese explained that structural damage was limited to broken windows, holes in office walls, and displaced shrubbery. Parish leadership expressed confidence that had the office been occupied, injuries or deaths were likely.
Beaumont Police Chief Jim Singletary told the Enterprise that his department received several noise complaints in the vicinity of the joint campus, but would not confirm the times in which they were given. One neighbor told the paper they believe a noise was heard around 2am local time Thursday but could not see what caused the disturbance from their vantage point.
The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, took to his Twitter account to share his thanks for the outcome of the incident.
We are thankful that no one was hurt. Our main concern right now is meeting the pastoral care needs of the congregation and school-A few EDOT staff members are currently on their way to Beaumont. Bishops Fisher, Harrison, Monterroso, and I ask for your prayers for all involved.
— C. Andrew Doyle (@TexasBishop) May 10, 2018
The St. Stephen’s bomb marks the second of its kind in Beaumont since April 26 when a small device was discovered outside of a Starbucks store on Dowlen Road, approximately three miles away. The local paper noted that BPD would not comment at this time if the events are linked. In that incident, an un-detonated package was spotted on top of a trash can by an employee before daybreak, according to the local paper.
The Beaumont police are joined with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as the investigation proceeds.