Firebombed GOP office in N. Carolina goes back to work, Utah Republicans receive threats

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory views the damage caused in a firebomb attack on local offices of the North Carolina Republican Party in Hillsborough, North Carolina, U.S. October 17, 2016. © Chris Keane
Even as local, state and federal investigators gather evidence in the firebombing of the Orange County Republican Party headquarters and graffiti of a nearby business in North Carolina, the office has reopened. Other GOP offices are now receiving threats.

The building was firebombed with a bottle filled with a flammable substance that was thrown through a window sometime between midnight and 8:54am local time, when a 911 call was made reporting the damage. The phrase “Nazi Republicans leave town or else” was spray painted on a neighboring business as well, the Hillsborough Police Department said.

“We are taking this incident very seriously and have significant resources at the local, state and federal level committed to this investigation,” Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton said in a statement. “We continue to ask for anyone with any information to come forward.”

Although the Hillsborough PD released audio of the 911 call with “some redaction and obfuscation to protect the individual reporting,” the caller, Bobbie Sparrow, who owns Balloons Above Orange, has spoken with the media. The graffiti was on the side of her shop.

"I saw the hate in it. And the only reason they used the side of my building, because it was a blank canvas for a message to the Republican Party people," she told the Associated Press. "I said 'this is a hate crime,' and I picked up my cell phone and called 911 and told them someone needed to get here immediately."

Sparrow noticed the damage when she went to feed her “foster kitties” before church on Sunday, she told the 911 dispatcher.

“They threw some sort of firebomb through the window because it’s smoked up onto the porch and all around the window frame,” she said in the call. “And I walked close and didn’t go any further, but I can smell smoke, so obviously it went out on its own or didn’t work well. And it is some sort of incendiary device.”

On Monday, morning, Evelyn Poole-Kober, a retired federal government employee and the vice chairwoman of the Orange County Republican Party, entered the building to survey the damage, the New York Times reported. The floor was covered with glass; plastic yard signs for the GOP presidential ticket and for down-ticket Republicans had melted together; and only the frame of a couch remained.

“In my heart, it’s an evil crime,” she said. “It’s no vandalism. Vandalism is if they would have come out and removed our signs. But to throw a firebomb through this building window is evil, and that’s in my heart. I think it was a political terrorism, I do.”

Poole-Kober; Daniel Ashley, the chairman of the local Republican Party; and some volunteers set up shop outside the burned building on Monday and got back to work as uniformed police officers and plainclothes investigators looked on.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump blamed the attack on “animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina… because we are winning!”

Democrats, however, banded together to raise more than $13,000 from 545 people in less than 40 minutes on GoFundMe so that the office could be reopened.

“As Democrats, we are starting this campaign to enable the Orange County, North Carolina Republican office to re-open as soon as possible,” David Weinberger, a liberal commentator and author, wrote on the fundraising page. “Until an investigation is undertaken, we cannot know who did this or why. No matter the result, this is not how Americans resolve their differences. We talk, we argue, sometimes we march, and most of all we vote. We do not resort to violence by individuals or by mobs.”

The idea began with a tweet from Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina. She called on the Clinton campaign to offer up one of its offices to the Orange County Republican Party. Her tweet was then passed on to Weinberger.

"It's a great gesture. We appreciate it a lot, but I don't know how much of that we're going to get to use because of the campaign laws," Ashley told AP of the GoFundMe campaign.

Republican offices throughout the state are taking another look at their security, state GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse said. Extra security measures could be necessary as Trump and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence are both “strongly considering” visiting the firebombed office, Kevin Cirilli tweeted. Pence’s visit could come as early as Tuesday.

Extra security could be needed at GOP offices outside of North Carolina, too. On Monday, Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans said that party staff were dispersed to various locations after a “specific death threat” was made against him, the Deseret News reported.

The Hillsborough PD is working with the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the State Bureau of Investigation; and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office on the investigation, with support from the US Secret Service.

“I’m appreciative of our law enforcement expertise and cooperation across agencies to uncover who is behind this reprehensible act,” Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said. “Especially given the national attention we are receiving, I’m extremely appreciative for everybody who is using this as an opportunity to pull our community together, rather than promote division.”