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FBI: ‘Stateside’ Man Firebombs Federal Offices In St. Thomas … Man Driving Truck With Gasoline Containers Detained

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Fires were deliberately set at three buildings associated with the U.S. federal government in the territory early Tuesday, including one that destroyed a Navy recruiting office, the FBI said.

Firefighters in St. Thomas were putting out the fires at the Ron de Lugo Federal Building and a Coast Guard facility at about 1:45 a.m. when the third fire was reported at the recruiting office in a nearby strip mall, according to local police and the FBI.

There were no reported injuries and the fires did only minor damage at the Coast Guard facility and the federal building, which houses the federal court. The recruiting center was heavily damaged, said FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio, a spokesman for the agency.

“That office is destroyed, pretty much,” Osorio told the Virgin Islands Free Press, adding that it was inside the Nisky Shopping Center.

A man was taken into custody after security camera footage showed him setting the fires with what appeared to be gas, Osorio said. No details about the man were released and no possible motive was released.

According to the FBI, the suspect is said to have also targeted the Coast Guard offices on the waterfront next door to the Senate Building and the Ron de Lugo Federal Building. However, eyewitnesses told the V.I. Free Press that none of those buildings showed visible signs of damage on Tuesday.

“A major effort was launched immediately to investigate the series of suspected acts of arson at federal properties,” the FBI said.

Officials have offered no details about the person being detained, or how he may have been linked to the fires.

It is unknown whether a motive for the attack has been established. Virgin Islands Police Department Public Information Officer Glen Dratte said the incident is being handled by the federal government, and that information had been transmitted to the VIPD, which will be issued to the media sometime today.

The suspect is said to have also targeted the Coast Guard offices on the waterfront next door to the Senate Building and the Ron de Lugo Federal Building also on Veterans Drive, and at first glance none of those buildings show signs of damage or attack.

However, according to a press release Government House issued Tuesday afternoon, Virgin Islands Fire Services personnel extinguished a fire which was burning palm trees, plant boxes, and an area of lawn at the Ron de Lugo Federal Building.

They simultaneously suppressed a fire burning an area of lawn at the Coast Guard building. Each situation was under control within ten minutes, according to Fire Services officials. There were two VIPD police SUVs parked outside the Coast Guard offices at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Police Commissioner Delroy Richards Sr. said this afternoon that he learned of the incident at around the time it occurred. Richards said he was told that the man currently being held by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was most likely not from the territory, and was driving a truck with gasoline containers at the back when he was apprehended.

The Government House release says a major effort was launched immediately to investigate the series of attacks on the federal properties. The United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the FBI, V.I.P.D, and the V.I. Fire Service Arson Prevention and Investigation Unit were among the initial agencies involved.

The attack, if it is determined to be an act of terror, would be the first such event in the history of the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the CIA World Fact Book.

ACCUSED ARSONIST: Spencer Allen, a fugitive from Texas.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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