A Washington state man has been charged with a federal hate crime in connection with a 2018 attack on a Jehovah’s Witness place of worship, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
Mikey Diamond Starrett, 50, is accused of shooting and damaging the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Yelm, Washington in May 2018, according to an indictment filed Wednesday in Washington District Court. Prosecutors say he hit the house of worship “because of the religious nature of the property.”
Three months after the Yelm Kingdom Hall was attacked, authorities believe it was targeted again when a fire broke out against the building’s back fence, according to a press release from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. the office
The incidents were part of a series of similar attacks on Jehovah’s Witness facilities and places of worship. Between March 2018 and August 2019, religious group buildings were targeted at least seven times in the county alone, primarily through arson or arson, according to the ATF Seattle Field Office.
Starrett, formerly known as Michael Jason Layes, was indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with criminal damage to religious property, unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm and use of a firearm during a crime of violence and in connection with a crime of violence. shows the documents.
Starrett has only been charged in connection with the shooting at the Yelm church. CNN has reached out to his lawyers for comment.
According to the ATF, the building sustained more than $10,000 in damage after being hit by about 35 rifles. Prosecutors alleged in Wednesday’s indictment that Starrett fired a semi-automatic rifle during the attack on the worship hall.
Starrett was arrested and charged with possession of an unregistered shotgun in September 2021, but was not charged with the Jehovah’s Witness facility bombing until Wednesday, according to court records. Starrett is in federal custody in Washington state.
If convicted of a hate crime, Starrett could face up to 20 years in prison, according to the Department of Justice. He will also be sentenced to 10 years for the unlawful possession of a firearm and at least 10 consecutive years for the remaining dangerous firearm charge.