AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Fire Department Arson Investigators and the FBI announced an arrest in an incident involving a person who tried to vandalize and start a fire at the Travis County Democratic Party Headquarters earlier this week.
AFD originally reported an unidentified man was seen on surveillance footage throwing something at the door of the headquarters on East Sixth and Navasota just after 2 a.m. Wednesday. On the second try, the object broke the window.
On Friday, AFD identified the man as Ryan Faircloth, 30.
“It was a pretty busy 48 hours to both identify the subject, locate the subject and apprehend the subject,” said Captain Jeffrey Deane with the Austin Fire Arson Investigations.
According to AFD, Faircloth put something, what they are calling an “incendiary device,” inside the door near a stack of papers. Officials said it was then the fire started to be visible, but the incendiary device did not catch fire, just the papers it was near.
Deane credits surveillance video at the scene and tips received about Faircloth’s identity, including from an informant, in arresting Faircloth.
Faircloth had “no history” of arson, officials say.
“I think it was one of those things…that this person was not happy with the current political climate, he blamed this office and who they represent for a lot of the issues that he saw as problems with the country,” said Deane. “For that reason, this was an intentional act, this was the intended target.”
The Travis County Democratic Party Chair Katie Naranjo issued a statement following Faircloth’s arrest:
“Our community is freer and safer to participate in elections thanks to Austin Fire Department and FBI investigators and to the engagement of TCDP staff and our neighbors. Democrats are committed to breaking down barriers to ensure the safety of voters, our community, and our democratic process. When we work together, engage the community, and denounce far-right radicalism we make our community safer.”
Details from the arrest warrant
An arrest warrant released on Friday for Faircloth said surveillance footage from the office saw a maroon-colored F150 truck traveling north on Navasota without headlights. The truck is then seen turning slowly westbound onto E. 6th Street. Shortly after, Faircloth is seen dressed in an American flag face covering, American flag head-covering, gray-colored shirt and black shorts.
Surveillance caught Faircloth throwing a rock in the direction of the office door, breaking the glass on the second time.
The warrant then says Faircloth exits the camera view and comes back in with a “dark colored bottle with a light-colored material sticking out of the top, later identified as an improvised explosive device (commonly referred to as a Molotov Cocktail).” He throws the device through the door, but the device doesn’t break and was not ignited.
The warrant says Faircloth then throws a “smoke grenade” through the broken glass in the front door and causes “a small explosion.”
During the investigation, an informant told officials that they knew the identity of the suspect and directed officials to Faircloth’s Facebook page. On the night of the incident, officials saw a Facebook post that matched the writing of the note found at the scene.
The informant also showed a text conversation with Faircloth and recognized his walk and stature from news coverage of the incident. The informant told officials that Faircloth drove a maroon-colored F150, which officials confirmed was registered to Faircloth.
During interviews from the scene, witnesses told police that they saw a maroon Ford truck parked in the area and that the truck made several passes up and down the block before and after the incident.
Faircloth is being charged with possession or manufacture of a prohibited weapon, a third-degree felony and arson, a second-degree felony. His bond is set at $25,000 for the arson charge and $15,000 for the possession of a prohibited weapon charge.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.