A building in McKenna soon to be occupied by a drug-free transitional living program has on several occasions experienced vandalism — including what appeared to be the placement of an explosive …
A building in McKenna soon to be occupied by a drug-free transitional living program has on several occasions experienced vandalism — including what appeared to be the placement of an explosive device — within the last month.
Fresh Start Housing LLC, the program provider and property owner, is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to “the arrest and/or conviction” of individuals involved in the vandalism and placement of a potential incendiary device.
John Green, managing member of Fresh Start Housing, said the first incident occurred on Sept. 10 when someone put what is believed to be an explosive device at the facility, which is located near the intersection of 95th Avenue and 357th Street.
Green said they found the device near their building and called the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.
“The police came out and they called out a bomb squad to come get it,” he said.
According to Fresh Start staff, the authenticity of the device is currently being tested by law enforcement authorities. A public records request submitted to the sheriff’s department was not returned by early Wednesday afternoon.
Green said additional instances of vandalism have also been playing out in recent days. An unknown suspect has broken out windows by using projectiles such as marbles and hex nuts.
Three different attempts were made to destroy windows on Sept. 28, Green said, with one of the projectiles nearly hitting a staff member in the head.
“The thing about this is that our general manager was sitting in their office … It hit the air conditioning near his head,” Green said.
This incidents was also reported to the sheriff's department, Green said. Staff at the facility believe the individual who was nearly hit was being targeted.
“The projectiles are being shot with force sufficient to pierce not only the windows, but also leave a hole in the plastic blinds,” staff wrote in a post on their Facebook page. “All incidents are being actively investigated by the sheriff’s department and Fresh Start believes that the person responsible for the windows breaking was caught on the security cameras. Those images are being shared with authorities.”
Fresh Start was originally slated to open its 140-bed facility sometime in September, though the project’s expected finish date was pushed back to later this fall due to additional logistics and planning, Green said.
The program was subject to a great deal of scrutiny and conspiracy theories this summer after misinformation spread online about the intent of the facility.
Program staff — including Green and the other managing member, Tim Timmer — have also reportedly been threatened with violence and faced harassment and property destruction.
Some individuals have brought forward legitimate concerns about the remote nature of the site, its close proximity to a bar and the program housing low-level sex offenders.
Despite that, Green said the outcry from the public in recent weeks has mostly simmered down as people seem to be more accepting of the program, which is looking to help those most vulnerable to homelessness and relapse through healthy and sober living.
“No amount of vandalism or actions from bad actors are going to dissuade us from (opening),” he said.
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