Chapel Hill News

GOP VP pick Pence visits Orange County party faithful after fire

Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, left, inspect the damage inside the Orange County Republican Party Headquarters with Matthew Arnold, N.C. fourth congressional district chair, right in Hillsborough. The office was firebombed overnight during the previous weekend.
Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, left, inspect the damage inside the Orange County Republican Party Headquarters with Matthew Arnold, N.C. fourth congressional district chair, right in Hillsborough. The office was firebombed overnight during the previous weekend. AP

Republican Vice Presidential candidate and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence stopped over at a Hillsborough campaign office Tuesday to see how volunteers were doing since being firebombed over the weekend.

Pence’s wife Karen joined him for the 1:30 p.m. visit. He planned to attend rallies later Tuesday in Wilmington and Fayetteville.

“My wife and I were in North Carolina today, and I wanted to come by to call attention to this cowardly attack on our supporters in North Carolina and to no less extent, an attack on the American political system,” Pence said, in a video posted by WRAL.

“This was an act of political terrorism, and I have to tell you how inspired I am to see the way this community has come together and people have come together to continue to move forward undeterred, unintimidated, by this senseless act of violence, and we are truly inspired,” he said.

Pence spoke with Orange County Republican Party Chairman Daniel Ashley and volunteers while touring the damage inside the burned-out office. Workers were starting to clear the debris, they told him, while the campaign was going strong outside. They office will reopen later this week into a new storefront nearby.

Pence thanked North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens, first responders and law enforcement at every level who are “working diligently to hold to strict account those who engaged in this attack on the American political system.”

Ashley told Pence he often slept on the couch that was burned that night. They think the fire was contained to some extent, Ashley said, because the Molotov cocktail thrown through a window Sunday night ignited underneath the couch.

No one was injured in the fire, which Hillsborough authorities think may have started after midnight Sunday.

“We are so thankful, thankful to God, that there was no loss of life,” Pence said.

Hillsborough Police and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office helped the Secret Service provide security for the governor’s visit, officials said.

Hillsborough investigators, meanwhile, worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect video from multiple locations near the local office Tuesday, according to a town news release. They also continued to conduct interviews and canvas potential witnesses to the crime.

The video from Ja-Max Drive in the Shops at Daniel Boone will be reviewed and compared to other information that has been collected, officials said.

It is not clear yet what the videos may show, they said, but investigators are confident a Molotov cocktail – a glass bottle filled with flammable liquid and stuffed with ignitable material – was thrown through the window. The evidence collected from the scene is undergoing analysis at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico.

Democratic nominee Tim Kaine is expected to attend campaign events Wednesday in Asheville and Thursday in Charlotte and Durham.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

How to help

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to contact Hillsborough Investigator Jon Purvis by email or by phone at 919-732-9381, ext. 37. Information also may be left anonymously through the town’s website or by calling the Hillsborough Police Department’s tip line at 919-732-3975. The phone line is routed directly to voicemail and does not record callers’ phone numbers.

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