Local News

Friend Of GOP Vandalism Suspects Has Emotional Outburst Outside Court

Posted November 8, 2004 5:43 a.m. EST

— Three people appeared in court Monday after being charged with vandalizing the North Carolina Republican Party headquarters. However, a friend of the three people had an emotional outburst outside the courtroom.

Police said Vanessa Maria Zuloaga, 24, David Rueben Hensley, 20, and Melissa Lynn Brown, 18, attacked the headquarters around 11 p.m. Friday, leaving behind minor smoke damage, broken windows and vulgar messages. They were later charged with malicious damage to property using an incendiary device, a felony, said Raleigh police Maj. D.R. Lane.

Hensley and Brown were given court-appointed attorneys, but Zuloaga declined. After they appeared in court Monday, 18-year-old Asa Collier, who was present during the hearing, attacked some photojournalists outside the courthouse, damaging their equipment.

A warrant has been issued for Collier's arrest on misdemeanor assault and damage to property charges.

The three people are part of a group that the Federal Bureau of Investigation views as domestic terrorists.

In July 2004

, the same group was involved in blocking traffic and vandalism in connection with the G8 summit held in the Triangle.

"While we don't want to scare anybody, we are aware of their presence and do take them seriously," said Raleigh Police Capt. Ken Mathias.

A police officer reported earlier in the night Friday that about 100 people wearing masks and gloves were walking down a street near the headquarters, Raleigh Police Capt. D.S. Overman said.

Officers responding to that call discovered a second group at GOP headquarters.

The vandalism was a "planned and orchestrated event," police spokesman Jim Sughrue said. "This is not a political statement,'' Sughrue said. "This is a crime."

Investigators at the scene found a partially burned, two-headed effigy in military fatigues. One head had the face of President Bush and the other the face of his failed Democratic challenger John Kerry.

They also found several spent fireworks, poster boards with slogans and spraypainted expletives on the walls. At least two windows were broken and police said it appeared that the vandals tried to put incendiary devices inside of the building.

The vandals spray-painted a capital "A" inside a circle, an anarchist symbol, on the building and on its sign. The symbols also appeared on a nearby automatic teller machine across from the N.C. State Bell Tower and on another nearby brick building.

Although police were unable to catch any of the protesters on the scene, two neighbors in the area near the headquarters did.

After hearing the commotion, John Robbins and a neighbor captured and detained three protesters until police arrived.

"I could hear glass breaking, I could hear fireworks, and I could hear a lot of hollering," Robbins said. "The whole time I was holding them they said they didn't hurt anybody. I definitely wanted to make them accountable for the damage they had done."

On Saturday morning, Robbins discovered a black flag and crowbar in his yard and handed them over to police.

Bill Peaslee, state GOP chief of staff, said campaign offices and party headquarters in other states have also been vandalized in recent months.

"With all the constructive things that people can do to advocate their point of view in a democracy, this is how they chose to express themselves?'' Peaslee said outside of his damaged office early Saturday. "The people have decided. Others may disagree. They have a right to disagree, but do it agreeably.''

Police also took steps to protect the nearby state Democratic Party offices from possible vandalism.

"We didn't find anything there,'' Lane said.

Scott Falmlen, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, issued a statement denouncing the incident.