Police: Monks escape gunfire fleeing Buddhist temple arson

December 17, 2019 GMT

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) — Buddhist monks dodged bullets while fleeing flames at a suburban Las Vegas temple set by a man believed responsible for igniting another fire at a nearby home and shedding his clothes at his house before shooting himself dead in a neighbor’s yard, police said Monday.

At least three monks escaped the flames and gunfire about 8 p.m. Sunday at the Thai-Buddhist Temple-Las Vegas in North Las Vegas, police Officer Eric Leavitt said.

A witness reported seeing a man running through a vacant lot carrying a red gasoline can before four other people escaped unharmed from a fire at their home about a block away, the North Las Vegas police spokesman said.


The parents of the 38-year-old man, whose name was not immediately made public, reported to police about 9 p.m. that he was missing, along with a handgun that they legally owned, Leavitt said.

The parents told police they became concerned when they found the man’s gasoline-covered clothes in their backyard.

The man was found dead a short time later after a homeowner called police to report a man on the ground in his yard. Leavitt said he was wearing boxer shorts and a handgun was found nearby.

The police spokesman called it too early to say whether the fire and shooting at the temple represented a terrorist act, and said investigators from neighboring Las Vegas joined FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents in the probe.

“That’s something we look at any time there’s an incident in a religious building,” Leavitt said.

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Breault said North Las Vegas police were heading the investigation.

Detectives found no immediate connection between the dead man and the residents of the house where the second fire was set, Leavitt said.

Leavitt said an outdoor prayer kiosk was badly damaged on the temple property at a crossroads in a residential area about a 20-minute drive north of the Las Vegas Strip, but crews from a nearby fire station quickly doused flames inside the main temple doorway.