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Reward offered for tips in Texas Governor's Mansion fire

AUSTIN — A $50,000 reward has been posted for anyone with information leading to the arrest of those responsible for burning down the governor’s mansion.

During a press conference Monday outside the charred remains of the historic building, State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado offered a description of a suspected arsonist that he said was drawn from security camera footage. He also suggested for the first time a political motivation for the attack, but said that that motivation would remain unclear unless the arsonist surrendered to authorities.

The attack occurred at 1:45 a.m. June 8, and footage from a security camera shows a person lighting an object and heaving it toward the mansion's front door. Investigators have so far declined to release the footage.

But based on their analysis of it, investigators now believe the culprit is a white male, between 5-foot-9 and 6-1, who was wearing a dark shirt, work gloves and blue jeans or cargo pants on the night of the attack, Maldonado said.

He suggested that the culprit may have been angry about the Texas death penalty or some other political issue and was attempting to deliver an unknown "message." He said the culprit may have been in his 20s and was probably in good physical shape.

"He was able to scale a barrier into the mansion ground, throw an incendiary device with enough force to cause a fireball and flee the scene in the dark, without being apprehended or injured," said Maldonado. "He might have spilled some gasoline on his clothes, and his clothes might have been slightly burned."

Maldonado said the suspect might have had an odor about him afterwards of gasoline or fire. He said the culprit may have practiced the attack, and may have conducted research with books or the Internet on how to construct an incendiary device.

"It's highly likely that someone saw something suspicious that night and simply dismissed it, or didn't realize the significance of what they're seeing," said Maldonado, adding that the suspect on the night of the attack "might have appeared hyped up or sweaty and excited as a result of the adrenaline his body was producing."

The reward is being offered through Texas Crime Stoppers. The toll free number is 1-800-252-8477Gov. Rick Perry, who has been living in temporary quarters since the restoration project got underway and was in Europe when the fire broke out, is promising to push for a complete restoration of the mansion. Cost estimates are pending.

How to help

Contributions may be made to the Save the Mansion Fund, Heritage Society of Austin, P.O. Box 2113 Austin, TX 78768-2113.

Donors may also direct contributions to Friends of the Texas Historical Commission, P.O. Box 13492, Austin, TX 78711, or to Austin Community Foundation, 4315 Guadalupe St., Suite 300, Austin, TX 78751; and Friends of the Governor's Mansion, P.O. Box 24447, Austin, TX 78768.