Situation Report: Targeted arson against law enforcement remains a significant threat

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A California man was arrested November 30 after allegedly attempting to set fire to the Corning Police Department office.

After hearing a series of loud bangs outside, police spotted 32-year-old Cassidy Russ “fumbling with an item near his waistband” that turned out to be a Molotov cocktail. Police proceeded to confront the suspect, who threw the device at a police officer before a scuffle ensued. Russ has been charged with multiple crimes, “including attempted murder, possession of an explosive device, arson, battery on a peace officer and resisting arrest.” This is not the suspect’s first alleged use of a Molotov cocktail. Russ had an active warrant for his arrest for previous arson incident from July in which he attempted to use a Molotov cocktail to set fire to police vehicles.

While there has been no media discussion of Russ’ motives in the alleged arson attacks, the targeted arson fits the modus operandi of anarchist and autonomist left-wing extremists, such as Antifa, which increasingly target law enforcement and security vehicles for destruction, resulting in a growth of such attacks both in the United States and Europe.

Over the past several days, Anarchists in countries including Italy, Argentina, Greece, France, Spain, and in the U.S. state of Oregon, have claimed responsibility for vandalism or sabotage attacks in support of jailed Italian Anarchist Alfredo Cospito. Several of those direct actions included arson of police, security, or industrial vehicles. Because of the tendency among Anarchist and Autonomist adherents to conduct attacks in “solidarity” with international events or actors, it can be difficult for local law enforcement to determine a specific motive unless a communique is issued.

While it is unlikely that we will learn the motive in the recent alleged arson attack against the Corning Police Department, law enforcement should be educated in anarchist and other left wing extremist ideologies to intelligently question suspects about possible political motives, in order to pursue state-level terrorism charges where appropriate.

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