HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A local Republican Party office in North Carolina was torched by a flammable device and someone spray-painted an anti-GOP slogan referring to “Nazi Republicans” on a nearby wall, authorities said Sunday.
A bottle filled with flammable liquid was thrown through the window of the Orange County Republican Party headquarters overnight, according to a news release from the town of Hillsborough. The substance ignited and damaged the interior before burning out. No one was injured.
On Sunday afternoon, the walls of the multi-room office were covered in black char, and a couch against one wall had been burned down to its springs. Shattered glass covered the floor, and melted campaign yard signs showed warped lettering.
The news release from authorities said an adjacent building was spray-painted with the words: “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.” The graffiti had been covered in paint by late afternoon.
Another business owner discovered the damage Sunday morning. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is working with local investigators.
State GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse said people sometimes work after-hours, and he felt lucky that no one was there at the time. He said the bottle appeared to have landed on or near the couch where volunteers sometimes take naps.
“They are working around the clock. It is a miracle that nobody was killed,” he said in an interview, calling the fire “political terrorism.”
He said Republican offices around the state were re-examining their security.
The violent act in the key battleground state was condemned by public figures across the political spectrum.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president said on Twitter that the attack “is horrific and unacceptable. Very grateful that everyone is safe.”
Republican nominee Donald Trump blamed the act on Democrats in a Tweet and also he encouraged local Republicans, saying: “With you all the way, will never forget. Now we have to win. Proud of you all!”
“Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning,” Trump tweeted.
At a news conference, Woodhouse urged Republicans to respond peacefully by turning out to vote in November. He said he’d received messages of support from Democrats.
Orange County GOP chairman Daniel Ashley told reporters that no one had previously made violent threats against the office several miles from the town’s historic square. The GOP office is several doors down from a shuttered ice rink in what was once a frontier-themed amusement park that is now a retail complex known as The Shops at Daniel Boone.
Tom Stevens, mayor of the town about 40 miles northwest of Raleigh, said that it was fortunate the fire didn’t burn the office and other adjacent buildings that are decades old to the ground.
“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,” Stevens said in a statement. “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.”
Stevens, a Democrat, said the act doesn’t represent the character of Orange County, which also includes much of Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina campus. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3-1 margin in the county that picked President Barack Obama by a lopsided margin in the 2012 election.
“I’d like to believe we aspire to respect hearing differing views,” Stevens said in an interview. “This is very troubling.”
Stevens said he wasn’t aware of any leads on suspects.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)