Affidavit: Man who attacked senator's office spoke of aliens
FORT WORTH A 40-year-old homeless man who spoke of aliens and twice visited state Sen. Wendy Davis' offices demanding to see her returned Tuesday and tossed a paper bag filled with six Molotov cocktails against the outer door, sparking a small fire, police said Wednesday.
Cedric Steele, who has been living in an abandoned home on Donnelly Avenue, was arrested late Tuesday in a convenience store parking lot in the 6000 block of Camp Bowie Boulevard, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead said.
He faces a charge of arson of a building. Bond is set at $50,000.
Steele had visited Davis' office Friday and again Monday, requesting to speak with the senator about a tazing incident that occurred in Michigan, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
He left behind part of a dead animal, "stating it was a new species and wanted the senator to see it," the affidavit said.
Davis said Steele's demeanor and his demands led her staff members to believe that "he was probably not completely stable."
Police said Steele likely acted alone. Police found empty bottles, wicks and an empty can of lighter fluid in the vacant house, Halstead said.
Before his arrest, Steele "spoke of an alien species" to officers and said he "had another piece of the alien in the rafter" of the vacant residence on Donnelly, the affidavit says.
Halstead said bottles filled with an accelerant were used to spark the small fire outside Davis' third-floor offices in the So7 development, on West Seventh Street just west of downtown, about 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Steele is wanted on warrants out of Tulsa, Okla., for aggravated assault and battery and interruption, disruption or interference with an emergency call, court officials there confirm.
Court records show that the warrants were issued in December 2005, one month after Steele had been sentenced to one-year probation on a conviction of breaking and entering.
Tulsa County records show Steele was also sentenced to one-year probation for a December 2002 conviction of assault and battery.
Tarrant County court records list Steele's address as of 2007 as the Presbyterian Night Shelter.
His only conviction in Tarrant County was for failure to identify - a misdemeanor - for which he was sentenced in February 2007 to 10 days in jail.
Steele has four convictions between 2006 and 2010 in Dallas County, one for a assault of a family member and three for criminal trespassing, Dallas County records show.
There is no public record indicating that Steele is registered to vote in Tarrant County.
A resident of the Donnelly Avenue neighborhood said Wednesday that he has seen Steele in the area for the past three to four months, and that Steele had been living in the vacant house for a month or two.
Matthew Jackson, 22, said Steele asked him for pocket change every time he saw him.
"I told him, on one occasion, at the 7-11, 'Hey, you know you can go give some blood and they'll give you at least 50 bucks?' " Jackson said.
"He then began to speak all kinds of gibberish and I couldn't understand. But I did understand when he said, 'No, no, that's how you get them demons.' "
On Wednesday, Davis used the incident to call for civility: We should "be careful about the type of rhetoric bandied about."
We need "to stop demonizing (political opponents) ... in a way that might incite these kinds of responses."
No injuries were reported in the fire, but the incident was "alarming and very scary," Davis said Tuesday night at a news conference outside the office on West Seventh Street.
A building maintenance worker chased a man but could not catch him, authorities said.
The Fire Department began an arson investigation with the help of Fort Worth police and state troopers, fire officials said.
Anthony Spangler, Davis' communications director, said a staffer heard a thud at the door and opened it to find flames.
The employee "jumped over the flames that were blocking the doorway" to escape the office, get a fire extinguisher and put out the fire, he said.
"We have an office that's open to the public all the time, and so we're always potentially vulnerable to things like this," he said. "We're thankful that no one was injured."
On Wednesday, Boyd Richie, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, released a statement calling the attack "deplorable."
"Offering oneself up for public service, whether as an elected official or a staffer, should never result in the threat of physical violence," he said.
Firefighters responded at 4:03 p.m. Tuesday to an automatic fire alarm, Fire Capt. Tom Crow said. The fire was relatively small and did not get inside the office.
Davis was at her law office in downtown Fort Worth at the time.
She said that when she heard of the attack she thought of the January 2011 shootings in Arizona in which six people were killed and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 13 others were wounded.
"It's a sad but true fact of public service that we have to feel concerned sometimes for our personal safety," Davis said. "But we can't let that stop us."