GOP headquarters target of suspected arson

Broken glass and fire damage is seen in the Albany County Republican Party office in downtown Laramie on Thursday. The FBI is investigating the incident.

Federal agents are being dispatched to Laramie to investigate an incident of apparent arson at a Republican hub in the city’s downtown.
 
The Laramie Fire Department and Laramie Police Department arrived at the Albany County Republican Party headquarters at 214 Ivinson Ave. in downtown Laramie at 3:25 a.m. Thursday where the first responders found a fire on the first floor of the building in the front office area.
 
Damage to the structure included moderate smoke and heat damage to the first floor office. An occupant in an apartment on the second floor of the building was evacuated by LFD crews without incident. No injuries were reported.
 
Steve Morgan of the LPD said any fire left unchecked could be a serious threat to public safety, particularly considering the density of businesses and residences.
“The fact it was a downtown building with adjoining businesses and apartments upstairs falls into that category,” Morgan said.
 
The event is being investigated as arson, Morgan said. And because of “the nature of the occupants” of the office space, the FBI is being called in to investigate. As of 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Morgan said federal investigators might already be in Laramie.
 
Morgan said investigators “can’t rule out” a political motivation as a focus of the actors. There were no suspects when this report was filed early Thursday. 
 
A window on the west side of the building was broken out with fire damage apparent on the floor and ceiling of the office. Albany County GOP chairman Ben McKay said a “Make America Great Sign” from the campaign of President Donald Trump was hanging in the now broken window.
 
It comes just two days after Republicans finished decorating the office, making it an obvious hub of the GOP. McKay called the incident an “attack” and a “real crime.” In his mind, McKay said it seems obvious whoever was behind the incident was motivated by their objection to Republicans’ policy positions.
 
“This wasn’t defacing public or private property,” he said. “This was intentionally breaking in and setting fire to an organization that somebody disagreed with. … The fact it happened about 48 hours after moving into the office can’t be a coincidence.”
 
McKay said he hopes the landlord will allow the GOP to continue occupying the space so the party can continue its work going into a busy 2018 general election in November. While he said he’s “heartbroken” by the incident, McKay said he doesn’t want it to become the focal point of Albany County Republicans’ message in the coming months.
 
Whatever happens going forward, he said the incident won’t be an impediment for local conservatives trying to see their candidates elected and legislative goals met.
 
“We’re not going to stop campaigning, we’re not going to stop knocking on doors,” McKay said. “We’re not going to shut down an office because people want to use force and intimidate and use scare tactics to get someone who doesn’t agree with them to be silent.” 
 
 

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