The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for two arson cases more than a decade ago.
The Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a radical international environmental group which advocates direct action through economic sabotage to stop the destruction of the natural environment, claimed responsibility for the fires.
A condominium complex being built in the UTC/La Jolla area was set on fire at 3 a.m. on August 1, 2003. The complex had an estimated value of $50 million. A large white cloth was left behind with the message “IF YOU BUILD IT – WE WILL BURN IT THE ELF’S ARE MAD.”
No injuries occurred, but residents had to be evacuated. The condominiums had to be rebuilt.
Then, seven weeks later, a set of new homes being built in Carmel Valley was also torched.
Four completed homes were destroyed by the fire and two others were damaged. The estimated value lost was $3 million. There were no injuries.
Multiple ELF banners, similar to the one found at the destroyed condominium in UTC, were left at the construction site of the new homes.
One of the banners stated, “Environmental murder. Nature demands justice. The E.L.F.s are mad.”
Drew Bedell, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI, says that people in ELF, and other groups like it, are close to one another and are motivated by their ideology of protecting the environment.
“We’re all for protecting the First Amendment and people being able to protest,” says Bedell, “however, when they take it a little too far — or way too far in this case — that’s when it’s a real concern.”
Bedell says that the ELF group was active in the late 1990s to early 2000s, but has not been as active since.
“What we’re hoping is that DNA evidence is left on the banners. Technology has advanced significantly from when we tested them 13 years ago, so we’re hoping to get [results] from that,” Bedell tells NBC 7.
“We hope that people who have heard about this, or someone told them about this, will provide information for us.”
The FBI has jurisdiction in this case since the crimes are considered acts of domestic terrorism
Anyone with information regarding these crimes should contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324). Online tips can be made at tips.fbi.gov.