Veteran leaves live bombs at local church and Starbucks, sends cryptic letters to cops: Feds

Authorities in Texas believe a Beaumont military veteran was behind a pair of bombings in the area.

As KYTX reported, 40-year-old Jonathan Matthew Torres was arrested by local officers and federal agents this week at his home on suspicion of setting off bombs at a local church and coffee shop in recent weeks.

The suspect is a veteran of the U.S. military, though initial reports did not include details about the branch, his rank or status. Acquaintances told local media outlets that he served in the Marines and Army over a period of about a decade.

His neighbors reportedly described him as a nice man and authorities are working to determine a motive for the bombings of St. Stephen’s Church and a local Starbucks.

The coffee shop bomb was discovered on April 26 and involved an explosive device accompanied by a message spelled out in alphabetic stickers. The note reportedly said “HAJI DIE USA — JH.”

An employee reportedly opened the bomb two days after finding the package at the store. Fortunately, the detonator was not triggered upon unwrapping it as investigators say it was designed to do.

About two weeks later, another package was found at the church on Delaware Street. The resulting explosion damaged property in an office but caused no physical injuries.

Police have also received a string of suspicious note cards signed either “JH” or “J HANCOCK,” according to reports. A similar note was found near the device left at Starbucks.

Upon searching his residence in accordance with a warrant, investigators reportedly recovered containers containing varying amounts of the same type of explosive material used in the crimes. Authorities also reportedly recovered evidence including boxes, tape, receipts and string matching the packaging materials used to mail the devices.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office indicates he is expected to face charges including using an explosive device to damage property, mailing a threatening communication, and possessing an unregistered destructive device. He is set to appear in federal court on Tuesday and could face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted.

Reports indicate he received a two-year probated sentence in 2016 after pleading guilty to a drug charge.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about the case to contact Beaumont Crime Stoppers by calling 409-833-TIPS or federal authorities at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

[Featured image: Jonathan Torres/Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office]