Republican HQ in Orange County firebombed with Molotov cocktail, police say

Credit: Photo by Patrick Priest/WNCN
Credit: Photo by Patrick Priest/WNCN (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

WNCN – HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Republican Party headquarters in Orange County was vandalized and firebombed with what police described as a "Molotov cocktail" overnight, Hillsborough officials said Sunday.

The building at 347 Ja-Max Drive was hit with graffiti and "flammable material" in a bottle was thrown through a window starting a fire inside, Hillsborough police said in an email.

RELATED: Group of Democrats create GoFundMe for firebombed NCGOP office, raise $13K in 40 minutes

Graffiti that said "Nazi Republicans leave town or else" was spray painted in black paint on the side of a building next to the Republican headquarters, according to police.

That graffiti included a swastika and was discovered before 9 a.m. by a nearby business owner, officials said.

"The flammable substance appears to have ignited inside the building, burned some furniture and damaged the building's interior before going out," said police, who describe the object as a Molotov cocktail.

No one was hurt and no damage estimates were available.  Police are working with the ATF to investigate and the FBI was added to the investigation, officials said in an update late Sunday.

The North Carolina Republican Party released a statement Sunday afternoon calling the incident a "vicious attack" and "hate crime" and said they would increase security at events and offices.

On Sunday night, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump pointed blame at Democrats for the attack.

"Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning," he wrote on Twitter.

Minutes later, Trump indicated that everyone was safe and added in a Tweet, "With you all the way, will never forget. Now we have to win. Proud of you all!"

All N.C. Republican offices were asked to close Sunday night while officials evaluate the situation to determine if there is a continued threat, officials said Sunday evening.

Party officials released a statement that said, in part:

"Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, all Americans should be outraged by this hate-filled and violent attack against our democracy," said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

"Whether the bomb was meant to kill, destroy property, or intimidate voters, everyone in this country should be free to express their political viewpoints without fear for their own safety. We will be requesting additional security at all Republican Party offices and events between now and Election Day to ensure the safety of our activists, volunteers, and supporters," Woodhouse added.

N.C. Governor Pat McCrory also released a statement Sunday afternoon in which he vowed to make solving the firebombing a priority of his office.

"The firebombing of a local political headquarters in Orange County is clearly an attack on our democracy," said McCrory, a Republican. "Violence has no place in our society – but especially in our elections. Fortunately no one was injured; however, I will use every resource as governor to assist local authorities in this investigation."

The Orange County Republican Party will be operating out of a coach bus borrowed from Durham County until they can move back in to the damaged offices.

The N.C. Republican Party has already brought new campaign materials for folks to use and they say they'll be back at work on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the vandalism was condemned by Hillsborough officials.

"This highly disturbing act goes far beyond vandalizing property; it willfully threatens our community's safety via fire, and its hateful message undermines decency, respect and integrity in civic participation," Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said.

"I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of people who make Hillsborough their home: Acts like this have no place in our community. Our law enforcement officials are responding quickly and thoroughly to investigate this reprehensible act and prosecute the perpetrators."

Democratic officials also denounced the incident, calling it an "attack," with a statement released on Sunday afternoon.

"The North Carolina Democratic Party strongly condemns this attack. Violence has no place in our political system. We hope the perpetrators of this attack are brought to swift justice, and we are thankful that no one was hurt. Our deepest sympathies are with everyone at the North Carolina Republican Party," said North Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Patsy Keever.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners released a statement on the incident Monday morning.

"The attack on the Orange County Republican Party headquarters early Sunday morning is a despicable act. The Orange County Board of Commissioners expresses its outrage that such an event could occur here or anywhere. We are grateful no one was injured in this senseless act. Orange County is an inclusive, welcoming community that values all viewpoints and perspectives. Our political process must be conducted without fear of reprisals or repression, or we risk undermining all the principles of freedom we hold dear," said Earl McKee, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners on behalf of the Board.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Investigator Jon Purvis by email or by phone at 919-732-9381, ext. 37.

Tips can also be left anonymously through the town's website or by calling the Hillsborough Police Department's tip line at 919-732-3975. The phone line is routed directly to voicemail and does not record callers' phone numbers, police said.

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