Arson attack outside office of US Senator Bernie Sanders News
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Arson attack outside office of US Senator Bernie Sanders

Michael Soghomonian, also known as Shant, was arrested Sunday for allegedly starting a fire outside Senator Bernie Sanders’ office in Burlington, Vermont on Friday.

An accelerant was lit in the office entrance, where the fire was quickly detected in the vestibule between the elevator and the office entrance. After igniting the fire, Soghomonian fled. A large fire engulfed the door and part of the vestibule, trapping the staff members who were working in the office. The Burlington Fire Department confirmed that the sprinkler system was engaged and largely extinguished the fire. The building itself is registered as a national historic site in the city of Burlington. The Burlington Fire Department and Burlington Police Department evacuated the Senator’s office and surrounding offices. Sanders was not present.

A community member identified Soghomonian, which led to the arrest. VTdigger, a local paper, reported that a staff member at the Inn at Burlington recognized the man in the security footage and that Soghomonian had stayed at the hotel for “several weeks” or “close to two months.” Officers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were able to apprehend Soghomonian at the Inn.

No court date appears to have been set yet for Soghomonian. Setting fire to a political office is a severe offense, and if convicted, Soghomonian faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000. Since the January 6, 2021, national Capitol attack, the question of how to deal with the threat of domestic terrorism toward government officials is still an active issue. However, when an incident such as this occurs, it is a multi-law enforcement response; this case was investigated by police departments in Burlington, Shelburne, and Williston; Vermont State Police; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and US Capitol Police, officials said.

Sanders is a long-serving independent legislator in the US Senate and has had two presidential bids in past Democratic primaries.