AUSTIN, Texas — Arson investigators have arrested a man they believe placed a Molotov cocktail and a "threatening note" inside the Travis County Democratic Party headquarters in Downtown Austin in the early-morning hours of Sept. 29.
A small fire broke out just after 2:15 a.m. at the headquarters located at 1311 E. Sixth St., and employees in the neighboring businesses called 911 and put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.
Days later, on Oct. 1, the Austin Fire Department said arson investigators along with the FBI arrested Ryan Faircloth of Austin.
Faircloth, a 30-year-old man, was booked Friday morning on a second-degree felony arson charge and a third-degree felony charge for carrying a prohibited weapon, the Molotov cocktail.
The arson charge carries a prison sentence of two to 20 years, AFD said.
"I wanna make something very clear though," said Katie Naranjo, the Travis County Democratic Party Chair, on the day of the fire. "This was an attack."
Brandon Jennings, an arson investigator at the Austin Fire Department, said at a press conference Wednesday morning that video from the surveillance cameras showed a man mulling around the building before he threw what appeared to be a rock at the window on the front door. The man is then reportedly seen coming back into view with a Molotov cocktail that he placed inside the door. Jennings said what looked like a stack of paper was lit on fire.
"What the individual tried to do last night was light a fire of hate and terror and threatening and intimidation behavior," said Naranjo.
Jennings said it's also believed that he put a commercial smoke bomb inside the door.
AFD said they received multiple tips, but one in particular stood out to investigators. After looking at his social media and finding additional information about the man, they made contact with him.
Investigators said Faircloth told them he was not happy with the current political climate and that he blamed the Democratic Party's office for what he believes is wrong with the country.
Faircloth is believed to have left a threatening note at the headquarters. Investigators did not reveal all the details in the letter but said Faircloth essentially said he felt the Democratic Party was affecting his city and state in a negative way. He also allegedly alluded to more attacks in the future.
"Anyone who wears an American flag as a bandana and then throws a Molotov cocktail with fireworks into a building and leaves a note, a threatening note, is a coward," said Naranjo.
Investigators said they believe he's a "lone wolf," but the FBI is still investigating the incident.
The building had minor damage, and no staff was inside the building when the fire happened.
When asked if the Molotov cocktail could have destroyed the building, the fire investigator said, "absolutely." At the Friday press conference, Naranjo thanked investigators for the swift work.
Jennings, the fire investigator, said that a building down the street, the "Granger Building," was vandalized about two hours after the fire broke out. The Travis County Ned Granger Administration Building is a government building.
PHOTOS: Fire damage at Travis County Democratic Party headquarters in Austin
The party chair said at the press conference that the security cameras that captured the incident were installed last year after someone else attacked the building on a smaller scale.
"I want to be clear," she said. "This was an attack ... The Democratic Party believes in free speech, believes in your right to vote, and we will not be intimidated by any individual who takes such a cowardly act as to attack a democratic institution. Our political parties are a part of our democracy."
The Travis County Democratic Party provided surveillance footage below:
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