GOP of­fice re­opens after fire­bomb­ing

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Jonathan Drew

HILLS­BOR­OUGH, N.C. >> In­ves­ti­ga­tors combed through shards of glass, looked for residue of flammable ac­cel­er­ant and tried to nar­row down the overnight hours when some­one torched a lo­cal Repub­li­can Party of­fice by throw­ing a flammable de­vice through the win­dow.

The mayor said he wasn’t aware of any sur­veil­lance footage from the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity, and the of­fice sits where there wouldn’t nor­mally be foot traf­fic late at night — in a decades-old re­tail com­plex that backs up to a wooded area and is set back from a main road.

A bot­tle filled with flammable liq­uid was thrown through the win­dow of the Orange County Repub­li­can Party head­quar­ters early Sun­day, dam­ag­ing the in­te­rior be­fore burn­ing out, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties. Some­one also spray­painted “Nazi Repub­li­cans leave town or else” on a nearby wall. The of­fice was empty and no one was in­jured.

Lo­cal party of­fi­cials re­opened a makeshift op­er­a­tion on fold­ing ta­bles out­side the of­fice Mon­day while uni­formed po­lice looked on. Plain­clothes in­ves­ti­ga­tors looked for ev­i­dence at the scene as state, lo­cal and fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors di­vided up leads.

“We have had peo­ple work­ing on it from three dif­fer­ent fed­eral agen­cies, state agen­cies, our lo­cal folks, all day to­day, run­ning down leads, work­ing dif­fer­ent parts of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Hills­bor­ough Po­lice Chief Duane Hamp­ton told The Associated Press in a phone in­ter­view.

He de­clined to say how con­fi­dent he was that the ev­i­dence would lead to an ar­rest.

North Carolina’s Repub­li­can Gov. Pat McCrory spoke to re­porters at the of­fice, say­ing he’d never seen any­thing like it in his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. McCrory, who’s been tour­ing parts of the state rav­aged by floods, said: “To come back near our state Capi­tol and see a bro­ken win­dow from a Molotov cock­tail is unimag­in­able.”

He also ques­tioned why it took Hills­bor­ough au­thor­i­ties sev­eral hours after the 911 call to re­lease in­for­ma­tion pub­licly Sun­day, sug­gest­ing they had ini­tially treated the crime as merely van­dal­ism in­stead of some­thing more se­ri­ous.

But Hamp­ton said fed­eral agents from the Bureau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives were called im­me­di­ately and ar­rived on the scene within an hour of his own of­fi­cers.

“I cer­tainly don’t want any­one to think that we didn’t take this se­ri­ously be­cause we re­al­ized the im­pli­ca­tions right away,” he said.

The graf­fiti and rem­nants of the fire were dis­cov­ered Sun­day morn­ing by 68-year-old Bob­bie Spar­row, whose Bal­loons Above Orange shop is next to the GOP head­quar­ters. She came to feed stray cats be­fore church when she no­ticed the graf­fiti shortly be­fore 9 a.m.

“I saw the hate in it. And the only rea­son they used the side of my build­ing, be­cause it was a blank can­vas for a mes­sage to the Repub­li­can Party peo­ple,” she said in an in­ter­view. “I picked up my cell­phone and called 911 and told them some­one needed to get here im­me­di­ately.”

She said she isn’t aware of any sur­veil­lance cam­eras out­side the build­ings, and Hills­bor­ough Mayor Tom Stevens said he wasn’t aware of any in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity, ei­ther.

County GOP chair­man Daniel Ash­ley ar­rived Sun­day morn­ing to find the area roped off by yel­low po­lice tape. He said he be­lieves who­ever’s re­spon­si­ble in­tended to burn down the build­ing.

“I def­i­nitely think the rea­son they spray-painted that build­ing there was be­cause they thought this one wouldn’t be here,” he said, stand­ing in front of his of­fice.

The vi­o­lent act in the key bat­tle­ground state has been con­demned by public fig­ures across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, in­clud­ing Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump. McCrory’s chal­lenger, the state’s Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Roy Cooper has also called the act an at­tack on democ­racy.

Democrats started a cam­paign to raise $10,000 to re­open the GOP of­fice, meet­ing the goal in less than 40 min­utes and “show­ing that Amer­i­cans are thirsty for ci­vil­ity and de­cency,” wrote the GoFundMe drive’s cre­ator, David Wein­berger, a re­searcher at Har­vard Univer­sity.

JONATHAN DREW — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Blake Halsey, a 21-year-old col­lege stu­dent and vol­un­teer at the Orange County GOP of­fice, takes a phone call from some­one of­fer­ing to vol­un­teer Mon­day in Hills­bor­ough, N.C. Halsey sits un­der the win­dow where au­thor­i­ties say some­one threw in a flammable de­vice that burned the cam­paign of­fice.

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