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Police seek suspect who tossed ‘firebomb’ into state building during riot

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ While state and local police remained focused on the crowd surging around Providence Place Mall during the riot last week, someone allegedly threw a “firebomb” into a state building, causing damage to equipment, documents and the offices inside.

The device crashed through a window of the Department of Administration (DOA) building near Francis Street as the riot intensified but was doused quickly, according to R.I. State Fire Marshal Tim McLaughlin.

Even though they had it under control, McLaughlin said water from the fire department and fire suppression sprinkler system in the building did “extensive” damage to the Division of Taxation on the first floor.

“It was some sort of firebomb or Molotov cocktail-type device,” McLaughlin said. “The water from the sprinkler system was pouring down from the first floor, down into the area below. It is extensive water damage.”

The fire marshal’s office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and state police are investigating the “firebomb” incident, as well as the torching of a Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) vehicle outside the agency’s Friendship Street headquarters.

In addition, McLaughlin said 10 other DCYF vehicles were vandalized.

State Police Col. James Manni would not comment on specifics about the investigation since his office is the assisting agency, but the morning after the riots he called the vandalism of government property “an intentional, coordinated attack.”

DOA spokesperson Amanda Clarke said the Division of Taxation offices and the cafeteria on the ground floor of the DOA building will remain closed until further notice.

“The Division continues to issue tax refunds and accept paper filings and payments by check via the United States Postal Service and private delivery service,” Clarke said in an email. “Although there may be a brief delay in processing.”

Clarke would not offer any details about what happened to the documents and data stored in the offices or release an estimate for the cost of the damage.

“I can’t provide more detailed information at this time as this is an ongoing investigation,” Clarke said.

On Tuesday, cleaning crews could be seen going in and out of the building, with vans from their company lining the walkway leading to the front door.

Near Francis Street, plywood covered a broken window next to another piece of equipment that was fenced off from a nearby parking lot.

McLaughlin said there is surveillance video of the DOA assault.

“There’s a camera shot of it, someone near the building,” McLaughlin said. “Then, you see the flames and they run away.”

According to McLaughlin, there’s also surveillance video of the DCYF vandalism and he said the ATF is trying to track down more images.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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