FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Police say a 40-year-old homeless man who left an unidentified animal part at Sen. Wendy Davis’s office earlier in the week has been charged with leaving a bag of incendiary devices in front of her door Tuesday.
On Tuesday afternoon at least one ignited, fuel-filled bottle was left at Davis’ Fort Worth district office. The devices, known as Molotov cocktails, were thrown at Davis’ third floor office door, in the West 7th area near Montgomery Plaza.
Police Wednesday said a bag of six devices was recovered at the scene.
During a Wednesday press conference, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead said the investigation quickly picked up when, “Based on witness statements, descriptions, and evidence obtained, investigators turned their attention to an individual known as Cedric Steele.”
Around 11 p.m. on Tuesday evening police officers located Steele, 40, in a Camp Bowie-area convenience store parking lot and took him into custody.
“You never ever say, ‘well, its almost midnight, time to lock it up for the night,’” Halstead said. “That’s when we were really busy getting the affidavits, doing more searches, gathering more evidence for the case.””
The devices were discovered at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday after a member of Davis’ staff reported hearing a large thud at the door, followed shortly by the building’s fire alarm.
The worker opened the door to find waist-high flames. Another staff member jumped over the fire to escape the building, while the other individual doused the blaze with a fire extinguisher.
No one was injured and Davis was not present during the incident.
“Our staff, who was in the office yesterday, acted quickly and responsibly, in a way that prevented actual harm from occurring,” Senator Davis said during the press conference. “But we could be standing here today telling a very different story had they not reacted as well as they did.”
At the time of the attack, witnesses were unable to give a specific description of the suspect, but did say a maintenance worker in the building attempted to stop a person seen running from the building.
Investigators quickly determined the fire at Davis’ office was intentionally set and that the bottles thrown at the door were filled with an accelerant, believed to be lighter fluid.
Police later learned that Steele was the man who had visited Sen. Davis’ office on Friday, March 16 and Monday, March 19. He had asked to speak with Sen. Davis but was unable to on both occasions.
“My office met with him, both on Friday of last week and Monday of this week, and just his demeanor and the demand in which he was expressing his desire to meet with me led them to believe that he was probably not completely stable,” Davis said of the suspect.
Court records show Steele left an unidentified animal part at the office, saying it was a new species he wanted the senator to see.
According to Chief Halstead, during the visits to Davis’ offices Steele had told staffers there they would “soon read about him in the news.”
Officials further believed Steele was the suspect in the Davis case after learning more about his living conditions.
Steele guided officers to an abandoned home, where he told them he had stashed alien parts in the rafters. Instead, police found materials used to make Molotov cocktails.
“Investigators were able to determine that Steele had been sleeping in a vacant residence, located in the 5600 block of Donnelly [Avenue],” explained Chief Halstead. “A search of the vacant building resulted in the recovery of empty bottles, items used such as wicks, and an empty can of lighter fluid.”
Police say evidence indicates an incendiary device was used to start the fire at Davis’ office, but they are waiting on lab results before making a final determination.
Cedric Steele, 40, has been charged with Arson of a Building and is being held on a $50,000 bond. As it stands, police said there is no information to indicate that there are any additional suspects.
On Wednesday, the senator’s office tried to return to business as usual. But there was still uneasiness, despite the democrat’s promise to continue to serve her community with an open door policy.
“It highlights for me how vulnerable the people on my team are,” Sen. Davis said. “Will I change the way I represent my community? Absolutely not. I think we’ve been a very important voice on issues our community cares very, very deeply about.”
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