Early last Monday, two masked men broke a window at Hometown Property Management, a business owned by State Rep. Andrew Barkis (WA-District 2, R), and attempted to set the building on fire.
Surveillance footage captured the two individuals at the Fourth Avenue building a little after 4 a.m. on Monday last week, June 13. See video with this story.
One of the men hit a window three times using what appears to be a hammer. The second male then threw a lit flare into the window. Both left immediately. The flare landed on a ceramic tile floor and burned itself out.
Barkis spoke to The JOLT at his office on Friday about the incident. The Olympia Police Department, meanwhile, said that its investigation is ongoing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The JOLT: Have authorities identified the two individuals involved in the incident?
Barkis: We have some people that are looking into that right now, especially the gentleman who broke the glass, because he looks right at the camera. The facial recognition is pretty amazing.
Olympia police said the same suspects later broke into a nearby antique store. What do you make of that?
There is a possibility that they’re connected. The Olympia police feels pretty strongly that it is the same perpetrators and that there was another person involved in a car. It is a 2004 or 2006 Subaru Outback Wagon, dark grey with a trailer hitch.
The thing is, they're saying that these guys potentially attacked this building in order to create a diversion to rob an antique store. My only thing on that theory is it doesn't make a lot of sense to me that somebody would commit arson— which is a federal crime, which has the potential of being catastrophic at every level. They didn't know there's not somebody in this building. Firefighters who have to come and put it out are completely at risk. It could have been far worse than it was to, 15 minutes later, run up and rob an antique store. Between here and that antique store, there are many of what I would consider soft targets or targets of opportunity where you could start a diversionary fire that wouldn't have those type of consequences, where they'd still accomplish said goal of creating a diversion. There are also many other targets that you could rob between here and there besides that antique store. If they were the same and it was part of the thing, it may be even the reverse. It may be that the robbery is a distraction or a diversion from arson.
I just have a hard time with that. I think that there's a lot going on in our world right now. I wouldn't say I'm high profile, but I'm a very visible Republican representative. I've been everywhere. People know that and it doesn't take much to figure it out. It doesn't take much to figure out where I work, where my building is. We also lease a space in here to our House Republican Organizing Committee, which is our political arm. Not hard to find that out either. It's not even hard to find out it was my birthday.
Do you think there's any connection between this incident and the attack on four churches after a draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade was leaked?
I don't know. There are certain media outlets that have picked us up underneath that spin, that narrative. I have 100% pro-life voting record. I've never been vocally outspoken, or the guy at the rally, or on the steps of the Capitol, but my voting record speaks for itself. I'm pro-life and proud of that, and I think that in today's environment, it's not out of the realm of possibility.
People are looking for reasons to do things like this. We’ve seen it over the last two years. We've seen these types of actions being taken in our cities, here in Olympia, in Seattle, and Portland. This is part of the modus operandi of these groups that do these types of things. But until we have more concrete evidence or catch them, we won't know truly what their motivation was.
I would pray that it wasn't an attack against me. I mean, it's very disconcerting. It really puts into perspective my public service. I've never thought a minute about my safety or been worried. I’ve dealt with people who are upset at me or don't like my policies. I'm, like I said, a public figure. This is a public business. I don't believe the narrative of vandalism and somebody upset at us because we're in property management, maybe like a disgruntled tenant.
Disgruntled tenants don't do that. I've had my building tagged. I've had a rock thrown through a window, I've had flags stolen, or things broken or whatever. That's vandalism. That’s somebody that's upset about something. They write “Rent strike” on the side of my building. They don't burn the building down. This is a much more significant, much more serious action being taken by somebody for a reason.
Did you receive any kind of particularly nasty communication from anyone prior to this incident?
No. I've looked. I get a lot of emails, a lot of constituent emails. We get some every once a while that are a little more out there, from all sides of the spectrum. If we get anything—and we've been looking, we went back through everything—if we get anything that could be interpreted as a threat to a public official, to a state representative, we turn that over to our [State] House [of Representatives] security, which then, in turn, invokes the State Patrol, and they take everything seriously as a threat.
Do you think the suspects’ clothing can lead to clues about their possible affiliations or motives?
The one guy looks like he just came from a bowling tournament or something. The gentleman who breaks a window is, in fact, wearing all black. He has a black bandana or scarf around his face. The other guy did not. But I don't want to downplay it.
A lot of comments on social media and others have said these two look like amateur hour, like they're just stupid people. Criminals inherently are stupid because they're committing a crime. I don't think there is a prescribed uniform that criminals wear or that I would discount these people's motivation because of what they look like.
If you watch that video, which I have a thousand times, it is very planned. The one comes up first, he does his job, the other one follows behind, he lights a flare. This is not like two guys bumbling around, trying to figure out what we're going to do …like a random ‘Hey, let’s!’ because they’re drunk or homeless or whatever. No. They purposely walked up to the building to carry out their plan. The video that's from the antique store is not quite as good quality, but they seem to feel that at least one of the suspects is the same.
We are also going to be offering a $5,000 reward through CrimeStoppers as soon as that gets set up. It’s for any further information that leads to an arrest and conviction. We’ll have that in play. I just was messaging with the deputy chief of the Olympia Police Department about it.
As you can imagine, it’s very disconcerting. I have 16 employees here. Their livelihood depends on this business. They know who I am. I have a lot of new employees that have not been around me a long time, and they're worried because of the political stuff. It’s been a very tough week not only for myself and my family, but also my employees.
You just look at what's going on in this country right now, just with the January 6 hearings, Roe versus Wade, everything. The level of concern is high and it doesn't take much to set somebody off to do something stupid.
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