Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feds join squad-car arson case

ATF offers $5,000 reward for information leading to culprits


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Steve Harkins

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has joined a local police task force investigating arson attacks on two squad cars last month in Hailey.

In a news release issued Monday, the ATF announced that it is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the "fire bombings."

The ATF joined the investigation at the request of Ketchum Police Chief Steve Harkins, who is heading the investigation, which now involves ATF, the Blaine County Sheriff's Office and the Hailey and Ketchum police departments.

"It was an attack on police vehicles and that's why they're taking this pretty seriously," Harkins said regarding the ATF's involvement.

Neither police vehicle was seriously damaged in the arson attempts. The first incident occurred on the evening of Dec. 27 when someone dumped a petroleum accelerant on a Blaine County Sheriff's Office vehicle parked at an officer's home on Aspen Valley Drive in Hailey. Neighbors saw the blaze and quickly extinguished it. Only minor damage was done to the rear end of the vehicle.

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The second attack occurred the following night when someone threw two Molotov cocktails at a Ketchum Police Department squad car parked at an officer's home on Third Street in Old Hailey. One of the bottles broke a window on the side of the vehicle while the other failed to shatter. The fire was quickly extinguished by the officer and the only damage to the vehicle was the broken window.

In addition to providing reward money, Harkins said, the ATF specializes in these types of cases and offers forensic laboratories for DNA and fingerprint analyses.

"The joint task force investigating these attacks has made it a priority in apprehending the person or persons responsible," Harkins said. "I encourage anyone who has information to please call—we need your help. The person or persons who did this needs to be taken off the street. Arson is a serious and senseless crime and it often endangers human lives, and in this case, the lives of your local police officers and their families."

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com

Police want help

Anyone with information regarding arson attacks last month on police vehicles in Hailey is asked to call either the Blaine County Sheriff's Office at 788-5555 or the Hailey Police Department at 788-3531. Information can also be relayed to ATF toll free at (888) ATF-FIRE.




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