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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasDMoriarty.