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Alleged arsonist arrested after fire at Sen. Bernie Sanders' Vermont office

Police arrested a man accused of arson at Sen. Bernie Sanders' Vermont office, officials said Sunday.

Shant Soghomonian, a 35-year-old man also known as Michael Soghomonian, entered the Burlington building on Friday morning and headed to the third floor where Sanders' office is located, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont said in a statement Sunday. Security video shows the alleged arsonist spray a liquid near the office's outer door, then he allegedly started a fire using a handheld lighter. 

Burlington police arson case
Burlington police released this image after the fire, asking for help identifying the man pictured.  Burlington Police

Sanders was not in his Burlington office at the time of the fire, authorities said, but several employees were there. They were not injured during the incident. Injuries were not reported for people on any of the other floors in the building.

The fire damaged the outside of the office door and surrounding areas, officials said. Sprinklers went off on multiple floors in the building. The Burlington Fire Department described the fire damage to the door as moderate. It said there was significant water damage to the third floor and floors below. Covers were put on the floors below Sanders' office to protect items from water.

"I am deeply grateful to the swift, professional, coordinated efforts of local, state, and federal law enforcement in response to the fire at my Vermont office on Friday," Sanders said in a Saturday statement. "I am also thankful that none of the many people who were in the office building at the time of the fire were injured. I appreciate the outpouring of support and well-wishes for me and my staff. We are proud to be able to continue to serve Vermonters during these challenging times."

After allegedly starting the fire, the suspect left via a staircase, officials said. Soghomonian was arrested on Sunday. Authorities have not specified a possible motive.

If convicted, Soghomonian faces a maximum possible penalty of not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. An initial appearance in court has not yet been scheduled. 

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