‘Incendiary device’ failed to ignite, sparing Travis County Democrats office after vandalism, arson attempt

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Fire Department is investigating possible arson after a witness saw a fire at the offices of the Travis County Democratic Party on Wednesday morning.

Austin police and AFD were notified about the fire on East Sixth and Navasota streets in east Austin at about 2:18 a.m.

Capt. Brandon Jennings with AFD said the suspect, an unidentified man wearing a gray shirt, black shorts with black and grey tennis shoes with a flag bandanna and mask, was seen on surveillance footage throwing something at the door of the building twice. On the second try, the object broke the door’s window, Jennings said.

The suspect then put something, what AFD is calling the “incendiary device,” inside the door near a stack of papers. Jennings said it was then the fire started to be visible, but the incendiary device did not catch fire, just the papers it was near.

Employees from a neighboring business were able to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher before the flames from the papers could spread, Jennings said.

When asked if the damage could have been worse, Jennings replied, “Absolutely.”

“The use of an incendiary device like this is to throw it at something once you light it, the liquid comes out and catches on fire, the fire spreads upward and outward and causes more damage,” Jennings said.

Jennings referred to the device as its common name, a Molotov cocktail.

Katie Naranjo, the chairperson of the Travis County Democratic Party, said the suspect left a “threatening note” next to the building and said the incident was politically motivated.

“When you leave a threatening note, the intent is to try to terrorize people,” she said. “Anyone who wears an American flag as a bandanna, and then throws a Molotov cocktail into a building is a coward. We call on everyone to denounce this behavior.”

Jennings said there was another vandalism incident two hours at the Granger building that appeared to be done by the same person. The Granger building houses county offices like the county attorney’s office and the district attorney’s office.

It’s not the first time the office has been vandalized. In November 2020, people spray-painted political messages with red paint across the brick outside the building. Officials said security cameras were installed after that incident.

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