“In no way can we say anyone related to the demonstrations is involved or responsible for this crime,” Chief Reynoso said. “We don’t know the motive at this point.”
First Works Baptist Church was founded in 2017, according to its website.
Mr. Mejia said the church had been at its current site for three years. The church, a low-slung building on a street corner, resembles a storefront, with restaurants and homes nearby.
“It’s not going to really deter us from doing what we always do,” Mr. Mejia said on Saturday. “We’re not afraid of this. It’s just a little bump in the road, and we’re still planning to have church tomorrow, obviously not at this current location, but we’re still planning to have church and once this is all said and done, we’re going to go back.”
The church is part of the New Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement, a network of 22 American and eight international churches known for their hateful rhetoric and calls for the government to round up and execute gay people, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that analyzes hate groups, reported in 2019.
Mr. Mejia is an outspoken acolyte of the network’s leader, Steven Anderson, an Arizona pastor who has drawn widespread condemnation for celebrating the 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where 49 people were killed, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
Mr. Anderson also gained notoriety in 2009 for saying in a sermon that he had prayed for the death of President Barack Obama, and was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League in 2014 for what it called his “history of anti-Semitism.”
Calls and an email to Mr. Anderson’s church were not immediately returned.
Mr. Mejia and Mr. Anderson were among a number of church leaders who spoke at a “Make America Straight Again” conference in Orlando in 2019, two days after the third anniversary of the massacre at Pulse, according to the law center.