Police release sketch of chapel fire person of interest

Explosive device is disarmed
2013-09-06T09:37:00Z Police release sketch of chapel fire person of interestBy Thomas Moriarty, The World Coos Bay World
September 06, 2013 9:37 am  • 

COOS BAY — The Coos Bay Police Department has released an artist's rendering of a man it says is a person of interest in the fire and attempted bombing at The Prayer Chapel Tuesday night.

The sketch, drawn from eyewitness accounts, depicts a white man in his mid-50s with a shaved head.

Police said was described as between 5-feet 6-inches and 5-feet 7-inches tall, and weighing approximately 150 pounds.

The sketch is the first information law enforcement have released regarding suspects in the investigation, which now involves the FBI.

“We’re actually working jointly with Coos Bay police,” said Holly Fauerso, a spokeswoman for the bureau's Portland field office. “The bombing could fall under state laws or under federal laws under Title 18.”

Title 18 of the U.S. Code gives federal law enforcement broad jurisdiction over explosives and arson investigations, including church arsons, which were specifically criminalized under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996.

In a press release Wednesday, Capt. Chris Chapanar of the Coos Bay Police Department said the device was discovered by firefighters arriving at the chapel shortly before 5 p.m., after a passing beverage delivery man noticed smoke coming from inside the building.

Multiple officers and a detective from the Coos Bay Police Department arrived shortly after fire personnel and quickly taped off the area.

Firefighters had the blaze contained within an hour, and the building incurred no readily apparent exterior damage.

By 7 p.m., the perimeter had been extended south to Central Avenue and Second Street and east to U.S. Highway 101.

Public works employees erected barricades on Commercial Avenue and Market Avenue, manned by a North Bend police officer and a Coos County reserve sheriff's deputy.

FBI and state police personnel finally arrived on scene shortly after 9:30 p.m.

Officers made several trips inside the building with a bomb suit and thermal imaging equipment before beginning to reopen the roadway at approximately 10:40 p.m.

Tuesday's investigation was the second case this month in which Coos Bay police have sought explosives expertise in the course of an investigation.

The agency also brought in state police explosives experts after the detonation of an improvised explosive device at the Mingus Park Vietnam War Memorial the night of Aug. 22. 

The chapel’s board of directors had offered the site as a place to relocate the memorial’s contested cross, which has been the subject of controversy since the city announced it had received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanding its removal.

Reporter Thomas Moriarty can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or by email at Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasDMoriarty.

Copyright 2015 Coos Bay World. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. Theory and Fact
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    Theory and Fact - September 09, 2013 1:32 pm
    One important fact to keep in mind: The bomb history of Coos Bay during the past five years--from 2009 to the present:

    Eleven bombs have been found at various locations around the City of Coos Bay, more than two per year.One of these bombs (Aug.2013) was detonated by a person or persons unknown in a public cemetery not far from a children's playground.

    A bomb in 2009 was also found at the Coquille courthouse.

    Help your local law enforcement end this!
  2. Theory and Fact
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    Theory and Fact - September 09, 2013 11:52 am
    I think it's also imperative to stay with the possible physical and psychological affect of these specious acts: the potential bodily harm to the public at large and the threat of bodily harm. There is also the less apparent psychological affect resulting from this: It means that some person or persons in Coos Bay or the surrounding area are willing to go to such extremes. These persons should be caught and prosecuted!
  3. Theory and Fact
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    Theory and Fact - September 09, 2013 11:31 am
    Most likely the fire was to draw attention to the bomb in the chapel. It is similar to the placement of the IED at the cross. It was placed enough so that it would be identified with the cross, but not so close as to do any irreparable harm to it. Again, it seems that the bomber is trying to make a point. The 2009 bombs were also placed at public locations--a Safeway, beside a road and at a courthouse, but none of these were detonated either... A lot of bomb incidents for a small city.
  4. Theory and Fact
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    Theory and Fact - September 09, 2013 11:24 am
    I guessing the fire in the chapel was to clear people out of the building and at the same time draw attention to the bomb. If so, the bomb would have been placed in a different location from the point of origin where the arsonist/bomber set the fire. The timing of the chapel fires is also curious. High traffic time, so it would have been quickly noticed. It means the arsonist/bomber probably had no intention of hurting people visiting the chapel or of seeing the chapel destroyed in the fire.
  5. coosbayres
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    coosbayres - September 06, 2013 10:41 pm
    Looks a lot like the guy I had an issue with on sunday afternoon that was sitting on a bench in front of Mckays. He asked for change, but thought he was dressed too nice to be a bum. All in black, with a cloak style cover on. Also had a black bag by his feet.. Strange guy.
  6. yonnie
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    yonnie - September 06, 2013 8:26 pm
    Please post a current photo of any government military grave sites that are crosses. Please look through the records of the town and tell me how this cross has been here without complaints. There are recorded complaints of it since day one. All formal complaints have been systematically ignored! My forefathers were Pilgrims so stuff it! And yes I'm a real Vietnam Veteran. I'm also a Son of the Revolution and a descendent of Plymouth Village. I am a real American and you're not!
  7. yonnie
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    yonnie - September 06, 2013 8:24 pm
    Atheists are mostly Humanists! Humanists are non-violent and believe in helping others. A Humanist would not cause harm to others. Many people in this community that are Humanists are Firemen, Paramedics, Police, Teachers, Professors, Doctors and Scientists.

    Before throwing blame around, why not look into possible insurance fraud on the church owners behalf? Perhaps he wanted the money and it's a good time to blame someone else?
  8. Thumper
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    Thumper - September 06, 2013 7:42 am
    I fully support a federal investigation into the bombings. There is someone in our community capable and willing to kill or injure the public. Both locations are public spaces. Did an atheist place the bomb? We won't know until the person or persons who threaten our lives are caught and brought to trial.
  9. Retread
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    Retread - September 05, 2013 6:03 pm looks to me like someone really, really wants to go to prison. And from my perspective, the sooner, the better.
  10. Kathy100
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    Kathy100 - September 04, 2013 3:04 pm
    Gee, It's almost like some one is trying to tell us something by these incidents. I wonder what it could be?
  11. Denton
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    Denton - September 04, 2013 2:24 pm
    Coos Bay needs some real leadership in a time like this and the current Mayor has not delivered in any way. Bowing down to the Freedom From Religious group and not accepting the free attorneys help to get rid of this hate group is unacceptable. It's time for a recall petition....
  12. Denton
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    Denton - September 04, 2013 1:55 pm
    So tell me, which is more offensive: 1. Christian symbol that is put on just about every grave site for military for the last 100 years 2. The "atheist" who are offended by the cross so they conduct terrorist acts for their beliefs? Tell me how a statue has been here for 40 years without a problem? Our US forefathers and the pilgrims that brought their Geneva Bible to the New World are rolling in their graves. Forget about the Vietnam soldiers who died and got called baby killers emotions...
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