Where’s the media outrage over an attempted arson attack at the office of a Republican state representative?

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OLYMPIA, WA – Two arsonists attacked the Olympia office of state Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-Lacey), smashing the window with a hammer and throwing a lit flare through the hole.

The House Republican Organizing Committee also shares the office space in the building with Barkis.

Barkis’ seatmate and House Minority Leader Rep. J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm) posted video on Twitter of the incident, which can be seen below.

Wilcox wrote:

“Early this morning a window was smashed and a lit flare was tossed into the office of my seatmate, Andrew Barkis.  

“The building also houses the office of the House Republican election campaign.  

“Fortunately the flare landed on a masonry floor and the building survived.”

In the Ring camera video, recorded in the early morning hours of Monday, June 13, 2022, two male-appearing suspects can be seen approaching the front of the building.

One suspect, wearing a dark jacket, dark pants, and a scarf over his lower face, swings a hammer repeatedly against the glass of the front, smashing a hole.  

He then moves away, and the second suspect, wearing shorts, a hat, and with his jacket pulled up over his lower face, approaches the door with a lit flare, which he drops through the hole in the window.

That suspect pauses for a moment to look at the flare inside the building, then scurries away after his partner.

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The suspects are still at large at this writing, and they are also suspected of another crime that same day.

According to Lieutenant Paul Lower of the Olympia Police Department, another business was later robbed of “several thousand dollars worth of merchandise” by suspects matching the descriptions of those seen at Barkis’ office.

Lower added that sometimes burglars “create diversionary crimes” to distract law enforcement.

Barkis was “skeptical” of this assessment, telling Fox News that he suspected political violence.

He said:

“I’m not quite of the same feeling that somebody would do an arson and burn a building down to just try to rob an antique store.”

Barkis continued:

“It’s a highly charged environment that we live in right now….

“My fear is when you look at what’s happened in Olympia, Seattle, and Portland, what’s been their M.O.?”

He added:

“The federal building, they’ve thrown incendiary devices, they’ve burned buildings, this is what has been done over the last couple of years so it’s not out of the ordinary.”

Governor Jay Inslee responded to the arson via Twitter, saying:

“Such attempts at violence are abhorrent. 

“We’re thankful no one was hurt. 

“Hopefully law enforcement is able to identify these individuals before they inflict any more harm.”

Caleb Heimlich, Washington State GOP Chairman, characterized the attack as political, responding to Wilcox’s video on Twitter:

“I have consistently condemned political violence. 

“Now I am waiting to see if 

@GovInslee, @Tinapo, @DrKimSchrier, @PattyMurray and other Washington Democrats will condemn this heinous act of political terrorism committed this morning.”

One response to Heimlich’s tweet came from Rep. Tina Podlowski, Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, who answered:

“Oh @CalebHeimlich

 – it’s absolutely unacceptable that someone would break a window at the office of GOP Rep Andrew Barkis, and throw a flare inside. Whomever responsible should be caught and prosecuted @washdems. 

“Now, you and the rest of the WA GOP acknowledge Jan 6th, K?”

According to MyNorthwest, Wilcox has also warned his colleagues to “‘keep an eye out’ for their families in case more attacks continue.”

Referring to a shooting approximately one week ago that occurred outside State Rep. Peter Abbarno’s home, Wilcox stated:

“I wouldn’t pay that much attention to it except now I’ve got two House Republican members around an arson and a shooting in one week.”

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Convicted arsonist who killed three firefighters in 1995 takes “Alford” plea and gets released from prison

Originally published June 11, 2022

PITTSBURGH, PA- According to reports, on Wednesday, June 8th, the man accused of setting an East Hills fire in 1995 that killed three Pittsburgh firefighters entered a special plea in federal court and walked away with a sentence of time served.

The arsonist, identified as 44-year-old Gregory Brown Jr., has already served 20 years in prison and on Wednesday entered what’s called an “Alford plea.”

The Alford plea is named after a 1970 Supreme Court case involving a North Carolina man, in which he plead guilty but still maintained his innocence.

These pleas are reportedly extremely rare, however, U.S. District Judge David Cercone, who presided over the state court trial 25 years ago, said it was a “just and reasonable” end to the case. He added:

“I think that this case deserves closure. It’s time to move on.”

In 1995, Brown pleaded guilty to the fire, but continues to maintain his innocence. The Alford plea upholds his conviction, but allows him to maintain that innocence.

In 1997, Brown was convicted of setting a fire at a home on Bricelyn Street that took the lives of firefighters Thomas Brooks, Marc Kolenda, and Patricia Conroy. At the time of the conviction, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In 2014, his state conviction had been overturned and instead was charged in 2016 in the federal system with malicious destruction of property resulting in the deaths of the firefighters.

When asked by Judge Cercone how he was pleading, Brown said, “guilty.” However, the Alford plea allows him to say he didn’t do the crime while the prosecutors say he did. Outside of the courthouse, Brown said:

“It’s guilty, but I maintain my innocence.”

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The judge stated that the plea means Brown stands convicted, but in accepting the plea, he elected to give Brown a sentence of time served as agreed to by his lawyers and the U.S. attorney’s office.

After his indictment in 2016, Brown serve a few days in U.S. custody, but otherwise has been free pending trial; he works as a custodian.

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaun Sweeney, who was also involved in the 1990s state court case, gave a lengthy account of the government’s evidence that he said shows Brown is guilty as charged.

However, since Brown has already spent 20 years in prison, he said that the Alford plea “will satisfy the interests of justice.”

One of Brown’s lawyers, public defender Michael Novara, countered with an equally as long refutation of the government’s case, stating that Brown was wrongfully convicted in the first place but elected to plead to avoid it happening again. He said in a statement:

“We understand what the government says it can prove if the case went to trial and agree that, if believed, the evidence would be sufficient for a jury to render a guilty verdict. However, Mr. Brown is, in fact, innocent of the charged offense.”

Mr. Novara said the house fire on Bricelyn Street wasn’t arson at all. He blamed a faulty furnace. He also said the testimony of two key witnesses is “tainted and fundamentally unreliable.”

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung said that the three firefighters were dedicated public servants who died in the line of duty and that Brown was responsible for their deaths. Chung said:

“Today, defendant Gregory Brown acknowledged under oath that the evidence as described in court establishes his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and is sufficient to secure his conviction. A conviction and waiver of appellate rights is important in securing justice for these public servants and their families and holds Gregory Brown responsible forever in the eyes of the law.”

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Career felon admits to starting massive fire in Home Depot so she could steal paper towels, Miracle-Gro and a plant

June 6th, 2022

SPOKANE, WA – A woman in Spokane, Washington, admitted this week to stealing a $6 million pack of paper towels. Not exactly, but she did admit to starting a massive fire at a Home Depot to cover her theft of that six-pack of towels, as well as a bag of Miracle-Gro fertilizer, a roll of black wire and a potted plant.

Kennie A. Calvert said she started the fire, estimated to have caused between $6 million and $7 million in damage, to serve as a distraction as she and two accomplices made off with a handful of goods.

Incredibly, Calvert, 59, was arrested May 29 while attempting to shoplift at another Home Depot, this one in Spokane Valley, the Spokane Police Department said in a statement.

It is unknown whether she had been planning another undercover blaze at the second Home Depot but police said they were already onto her as a suspect. The SPD had quickly gathered enough evidence to charge Calvert with first-degree arson in connection with the fire at the Home Depot on Newport Highway the week before.

Calvert, a felon with a lengthy arrest record, entered the north Spokane home improvement store about 9 p.m. on May 19, pushing a shopping cart and carrying a lighter. Surveillance video showed her moving from the garden center to the main store shortly before the fire started, according to court documents obtained by The Spokesman-Review.

 

Spokane Fire Arson Investigator Tom Oliver determined the fire started in Aisle 2, where a variety of outdoor power equipment is sold, as well as the fuel supplies for the equipment.

The fire started about 9:20 p.m. and quickly erupted into 25-foot flames that would have destroyed the building had the store not had a fire-suppression system, Spokane Fire Department Chief Brian Schaeffer said. The first fire company arrived within three minutes, and it took about an hour to get the fire under control, the chief said.

A nearly empty container of TruFuel was found in the area where the fire is believed to have been started.

TruFuel is fuel made for two-cycle engines, Oliver said, noting that the container investigators found originally held 110 fluid ounces but was nearly empty when they had discovered it. Oliver said it appeared someone had used the fuel to start the fire.

Authorities estimate that the fire caused between $6 million and $7 million in damage to the store and merchandise. Images shared by Spokane police show dozens of items scorched by fire and soaked with water. Video posted by KHQ-TV also showed the damage caused by the fire.

Calvert is the one who alerted Home Depot staff to the fire. In court documents, the employees said Calvert spoke to them in a “casual” manner and accidentally dropped a BIC lighter while speaking and quickly picked it up.

While Calvert was distracting the employees, her alleged accomplice, 26-year-old Sierra Fry, was exiting the store with the stolen merchandise. Shortly after, surveillance footage showed Calvert, Fry, and a publicly unidentified 33-year-old man loading the stolen items into the bed of the 2005 Ford F-150 in which they had arrived and driving away.

Police arrested Fry on June 1 for retail theft with special circumstances for her involvement in two other thefts besides the one at the Home Depot where the fire was started. The disposition of the male accomplice was not addressed by the police department.

Calvert was booked into the Spokane County Jail and is being held on $100,000 bond. SPD officials noted that she has 21 prior felony convictions for a host of crimes, including forgery, possession of a controlled substance, identity theft, and taking a vehicle without permission.

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