Frustration grows after second fire near Teresina apartments in Chula Vista

Frustration grows after second fire near Teresina apartments in Chula Vista
Suspicious fire at community activist office in Chula Vista
Frustration is growing after a second fire broke out at the Teresina Apartments in Chula Vista on Sunday night.

Witnesses tell 10News they saw a group of teens playing in the park near the apartments and a few minutes later they noticed the fire. 

William Maher lives in the apartment complex. He tells 10News he was the one who made the call to the fire department. Maher says the teens were recording the flames and laughing. He says they ran away when he yelled at him. 

Arson At Nonprofit That Campaigned For Rent Control Believed To Be Politically Motivated

The fire was so close to the apartments that the heat shattered several windows and melted window blinds.

Sunday night's fire is the second fire in less than three weeks in that same area. On October 25th, fire crews responded to a fire just feet away. 

Maher hopes police will find the teens before someone gets hurt. He's also hoping parents look through their teen's phones to see if they can find the videos that were recorded. 

Above: Arnulfo Brenes, administrative assistant for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego, walks through the wreckage of a fire, Nov. 12, 2018.

Chula Vista police are investigating an arson fire at the office of a nonprofit that campaigned for rent control. Theres no word yet on a suspect or motive, but community organizers in the county believe it was politically motivated.

Around 11:40 p.m. Friday, someone broke into the Chula Vista office of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said Christina Livingston, the organizations statewide director. The person then sprayed an accelerant throughout the office and beneath a table holding pro-Proposition 10 signs, in particular, she said.

The space was full of melted computers, twisted metal and soot Monday as South Bay elected officials and colleagues from groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union gathered to offer condolences.

We are devastated in some ways by the hate against our movement and against the work that weve been fighting for, said ACCE San Diego Director Paola Martinez-Montes. But if this was an act of intimidation, we will not be stopped.

Livingston said the statewide umbrella organization for social and racial justice groups often receives threatening messages on social media during campaigns but says they were more aggressive this election.

The group helped tenants mobilize around the statewide proposition to lift restrictions on rent control and a National City measure to establish rent control. Both measures failed.

The timing of the arson — immediately after a contentious ballot measure that ACCE supported, Prop. 10 and Measure W — is very concerning, said National City Mayor-elect Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. Acts of violence like this must be condemned and I call on all our local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and find those responsible for this heinous act.

Arnulfo Brenes, administrative assistant for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego, recovers a postcard and a tchotchke from his desk, Nov. 12, 2018.

It is an act of cowardice and it will not be tolerated in the city of Chula Vista, she said. I know that our police department is fully engaged in investigating this crime and that perpetrator will be brought to justice.

A man at the press conference told an ACCE employee a man purchased lighter fluid Friday night at a nearby liquor store. Police were not on hand to detail any other leads.

The incident comes on the heels of a contentious election cycle in which a man was indicted for allegedly mailing pipe bombs to leading Democratic figures and another shot and killed 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Both alleged assailants espoused white nationalist ideologies.

Some believe Fridays fire is was similarly motivated and immediately set up web pages to collect donations. ACCE is asking that people contribute directly via its website.

A declaration from the California Assembly honoring Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego Director Paola Martinez-Montes survived the fire, Nov. 12, 2018.

Chula Vista police are calling a fire that destroyed the San Diego offices of a statewide social justice nonprofit arson.


Posted in Chula Vista