Banned ex-volunteer arrested for Democratic Party office fire in Phoenix
PHOENIX – A banned former Democratic volunteer was arrested for arson Wednesday in the fire that destroyed the party’s Maricopa County headquarters in Phoenix last week, authorities said.
Matthew Silvanus Egler, 29, was booked on one count of arson of an occupied structure, a class 2 felony, in connection to the blaze set early Friday morning in central Phoenix.
Egler had been banned from volunteering at the Democratic office “due to the nature of his previous behavior,” according to a joint press release from the Phoenix fire and police departments.
He claimed responsibility for the fire on social media and threatened more violence, according to the release.
“We are deeply saddened and shocked by today’s news, but appreciate the swift action by law enforcement to ensure that the suspect is in custody,” Arizona Democratic Party Chair Felecia Rotellini and Maricopa County Chair Steven Slugocki said in a joint statement.
Investigators say they also tied Egler to the crime using surveillance video from the scene.
The footage showed a man matching Egler’s description arriving alone at the building on Central Avenue just north of Thomas Road in a Pontiac Vibe, authorities said.
The suspect broke glass doors and then set the fire before fleeing in the vehicle, authorities said.
Phoenix Fire Capt. Rob McDade told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the perpetrator used a chemical that made the flames especially potent.
“We can tell you it’s a dangerous accelerant and this person knew what they were doing,” he said. “When they put that accelerant out there they knew that it was going to quickly cause a lot of destruction, and that’s exactly what it did.”
The fire department quickly responded to the scene just before 1 a.m. and put out the blaze, but the damage was done.
“Fire investigators were there 15 minutes after that fire started. … Early on into this event we knew that this was arson,” McDade said.
The Pontiac, which had out-of-state plates and was registered to a family member of Egler, was located after it was abandoned in Chandler.
Eglar was arrested near his father’s house in Peoria after a search warrant was served at the residence, according to authorities.
The Arizona Democratic Party shares the building with Maricopa County Democratic Party, but the county side received the brunt of the damage.
A party spokesman said the fire won’t have a large effect on operations since employees have been working remotely since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s sad from the standpoint of all the memories that were in there and the memorabilia, but for the most part we’re focused on what’s ahead and that nobody was injured,” Matt Grodsky, communications director for the Arizona Democratic Party, told KTAR News 92.3 FM last week.
The investigation was conducted by a task force with members of the Phoenix fire and police departments and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.