By Sam Laird
The Santa Cruz Police Department, the County Government Center, and the mayor’s Mission Street bakery were all targets of arson attacks on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 28. Fires were set at two residential apartment buildings as well.
According to police department spokesman Zach Friend, the fires caused about $10,000 in damage, but could have had much graver consequences.
“The possible damage was mitigated by a sprinkler head at the county building, quick responses by the fire department, and quick action by neighbors,” Friend said. “There would have been much more significant damage if those things had not happened.”
Police believe all five cases were instigated by the same group or individual because they occurred within approximately one hour of one another, targeted similar buildings, and were started using similar methods.
Friend said that police are investigating a number of leads, but have yet to narrow in on any particular suspects.
City leaders recognized the possible connection between fires set at government-related buildings, including Emily’s Bakery. Mayor Emily Reilly, who owns the bakery located at the corner of Laurel and Mission Streets, did not return calls from City on a Hill Press, but Vice Mayor Ryan Coonerty commented on the possible connection between the arson attacks.
“Its an ineffective way to get a message across because there are much easier ways to get concerns heard,” he said.
Coonerty’s family has owned Bookshop Santa Cruz since 1973. The store was vandalized on a number of occasions when Coonerty’s father served on the Santa Cruz City Council.
“There are a lot of great things about public service,” Coonerty said. “But one drawback is sometimes people do stupid things that risk people and property.”