Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Suspected Vehicular Arsonist Caught on Tape

A reader sent in the following video of what appears to be a man using a device to ignite a car fire in a Near Northeast alley.

Dear Frozen Tropics,

We thought we should spread the word, in case this guy is a serial arsonist.  

On Friday morning at about 2:30 am, we found our car on fire in our alley (entrance at 3rd and K Street).  The video below (from a neighbor's security camera) shows the arsonist, though his face is covered.  Based on the video, we think he could have used a timer, and an explosive. Clearly, this guy has done this before. We'd like all of our DC neighbors to be on the lookout, and if they see someone who fits this MO, be aware that they could have a serious explosion and fire on their hands in 20 minutes. The guy appears to be about 6 feet tall, white, and carrying a large paper bag.  He has a distinct walk and run, and was wearing very baggie clothes and running shoes.  If we hear more from the DC FD investigator or police (and we're not holding our breath), or we can find another video that shows his face, we will update you.  


Anonymous said...

I guess it's a sign of the neighborhood reaching peak "whiteness" when instead having your car stolen - it's set on fire by a "serial arsonist".

Anonymous said...

I wonder what those people did to that guys. Always remember there are two sides to every story.

inked said...

I'm guessing the fact that people are cracking jokes means some of us either have a short memory, or just absolutely no clue about Thomas Sweatt

Peter Luce said...

@ Anon 12:100pm. You're clearly not in your right mind. It was my vehicle. What other side to the story (if there even was one) could possibly justify violent arson that could have killed me, my girlfriend, and families with young children who live on either side of us? inked, i've always appreciated your blog, but the fact that you allow anonymous comments has always disappointed me. I know it's a hassle, but comments here are a cesspool.

inked said...

I'm very sorry for what happened to your car.

As for anonymous comments, it's not that requiring people to log-in is actually any sort of hassle, it's just that I'm not sure it's all that helpful. If someone is intent on saying idiotic or trolly things and has a log-in for Google, or whatever other sort of account, that person is probably still going to say them. And that's what has generally happened when I have played with requiring people to log-in. Perhaps we can test they idea again soon, but that's kind of a pattern that played out all over the internet.

Anonymous said...

Peter, not to defend the arsonists actions, but you weren't hurt. Sometimes these crimes are an attempt at revenge. It's within the realm of possibility that you may have done something that caused this person to act in this way.

Anonymous said...

Just because you don't like what's being said doesn't mean you have the right to prevent the conversation.

Anonymous said...

I can't see it in the video, but what kind of car was it?

Peter Luce said...

My baby was an '03 Elantra.

Peter Luce said...

Anon 11:21am - it was a converted 1989 Ambulance that we (a local 501(c)(3)) used as a mobile sound system and art platform for festivals and other community events. Good people doing good things for the local community. Pics here:

BeatBox Arson Pics

I first moved to DC in 1990 - moved away for years, and then came back to live in the H Street neighborhood in 2008. I've always been a city kid, and feel strongly about participating in the community I choose to live in. I truly cannot imagine why someone would do this, but I feel just as strongly that this was targeted at me. All of us are struggling with that notion at this point.

Anon 11:10am: To me, the real issue though is that the arsonist could very likely have killed or seriously injured many people. That's very frightening, no matter who it happens to, no matter the motivation. I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that.

Anon 11:11am: I never said I was trying to prevent the conversation, just expressing an opinion that people are less likely to say hurtful or careless things if they were required to identify themselves to the people they are addressing with their comments. If you think that's a form of censorship of any kind, I respectfully disagree. I can see situations where certain individuals may want to comment anonymously to protect themselves from retribution (for example, to report criminal or dangerous behavior) but this isn't that. I invite you to engage me in respectful discussion of the arson, and would really appreciate any help you could provide in catching this guy. Please come by and see what he did. I'm having it towed away tomorrow.

and Anon 11:42am: I guess you made my point for me. I did drive a 1993 Toyota pick-up until about a year ago. Loved that thing.

DOR said...

This is awful. Scary and sorry to hear. Maybe some signs in alleyways saying that lurkers/intruders are on film will deter crimes/deviance. I'm thinking about doing the same for my property/area.

Peter Luce said...

Another quick note: this guy used a thermite incendiary device with either a timer or some time-delayed ignition source. 17 minutes passed between placement and ignition. This is not just some joker randomly lighting a car on fire for fun. Building something like that was far too much effort for a thrill. He knew there were cameras, he knew he could escape through a dead-end alley, he knew exactly where he was going (the only exposed vehicles in the alley are the first three houses.

The ATF is looking into this very seriously, because they have not seen anything like this (the device) in the area before. The agent in charge who supervises all of DC's arson investigators told me he had never seen one in the field in his entire career.

Thermite demonstration

Anonymous said...

" used as a mobile sound system and art platform for festivals and other community events."

So...is it loud? Do you play music in your neighborhood?

The more we learn the more this crime is starting to make sense....

Peter Luce said...

Anon 1:12pm:

We have only used at the H Street Festival in this area. We are one of the "official" dance stages, sanctioned by the H Street Great Street committee to participate. If you've been to Bardo, you've probably seen the beer can skull we made three years ago. We have never used the sound system in the alley or anywhere near it. It's loud, but not as loud as any of the main stages at the Festival.

We aren't "rich" kids pissing people off - most of us are in our late 30s, 40s, and 50s - everything from bartenders to NASA engineers, most of whom have lived in this area and Capitol Hill for a very long time.

Given that information, does this still make sense to you?

I'm open to any suggestions, obviously.

We've never had any complaints.

Annoyingmous said...

God, the comments on this blog just get worse and worse and worse.

Anonymous said...

The comments are what brings people to this blog. The writing style and news here are not of particularly high quality.

Annoyingmous said...

Anon 2:54: Huh. I come here to hear about things I wouldn't hear about otherwise. But I have no doubt you're right to an extent, in that *some* people that come here are attracted to this blog by others' disgusting behavior, or the chance to behave awfully themselves.

Anonymous said...

Probably had a Trump 2016 bumper sticker.

pat said...

"We aren't "rich" kids pissing people off - most of us are in our late 30s, 40s, and 50s - everything from bartenders to NASA engineers, m"


" this guy used a thermite incendiary device with either a timer or some time-delayed ignition source. "


Is it possible it's someone in the group who is pissed off?

A thermite device with a delayed igniter is an engineer's tool.
When I was at CMU, the mech engineers used to play with thermite,
and pretty much every chemistry student has played with it a bit.