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Ex-volunteer set fire to Arizona county Democrats' office "in retaliation," police say

Phoenix police announced Wednesday that they have arrested Matthew Egler, who they described as a recently-banned volunteer for the Maricopa County Democratic Party, in connection with the fire at the party's offices last Friday morning.

No injuries were reported from the fire, which consumed nearly all of the county Democratic party's facility. County party officials described the fire as a "total loss," coming just days before the state's August 4 primary elections. 

Police say 29-year-old Egler was seen in surveillance footage breaking glass and lighting a fire inside the office. The vehicle from the video footage was linked to a family member of Egler, who was ultimately arrested "at a family member's home" in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria.

Police added that Egler "had posted information on social media linking him to the crime" and threatened "additional violence." He is facing one count of Arson of an Occupied Structure. 

Documents released by the Maricopa County Superior Court show Egler has been released on bond pending a hearing in early August. 

In the documents, authorities say Egler had been previously banned by the county party "due to the nature of his previous behaviors" and was again rejected this year from volunteering. Egler allegedly set the fire "in retaliation."

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by today's news, but appreciate the swift action by law enforcement to ensure that the suspect is in custody," Felecia Rotellini, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, and Steven Slugocki, chair of the Maricopa County Democratic Party, said in a joint statement. 

A spokesperson for the state Democratic party on Friday said that while the party had been targeted with some threats in the past, including graffiti on the building shared by the state and county parties, they had been unaware of any explicit threats to burn their offices. 

The parties have seen an outpouring of support from Arizona Democrats and across the country, including from former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. At a virtual convention over the weekend, the country party's chairman recounted donations from states ranging from Hawaii to New York.

"As we work to navigate the process of finding a new home, we want to express our humble thanks and deep appreciation to all those who have reached out during this challenging time and have made generous donations. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts," Rotellini and Slugocki said in their statement.

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