Hemet Fire Not Linked to Booby Trap Attacks

Authorities investigate an overnight fire at a Hemet police facility.

So far, there is no link between an early morning fire at a Hemet police firing range and a string of attacks aimed at law enforcement, Hemet police said Monday.

On Monday, authorities responded to a structure fire at an off-site training facility about 2 a.m. The facility was not in use at the time, and no injuries were reported, according to police.

At least two-thirds of a building at the range was destroyed, the Press-Enterprise reported. The frame-wood structure was badly charred in the blaze, and arson squads from several agencies spent the day gathering evidence there.

In recent months, multiple booby traps were directed at law enforcement in the area, including a gas line redirected to fill and potentially explode a drug task force office.

Police have been careful not to link Monday's fire to the other attacks. Authorities are currently investigating the blaze.

Hemet Cops Seek Emergency Declaration

Connected or not, the fire is the latest in a wave of incidents involving police facilities or equipment, and police have asked the city council to declare an emergency and allow the department to purchase or improve whatever is necessary to combat the wave of attacks, without going through a bidding process.

The resolution, if passed, would give the city manager the power to order "any action required to harden city facilities in response to this emergency without giving notice for bids to let contracts," said Hemet police Capt. Dave Brown.

The proposed ordinance is on the city council's consent calendar for Tuesday's meeting, slated for 1 p.m.

  • In late March, four city code enforcement trucks were torched in the Hemet City Hall parking lot.
  • On March 5, a member of the Hemet/San Jacinto Gang Task Force found an explosive device attached to his unmarked patrol car when he pulled into a filling station in Hemet.
  •  On Feb. 23, a member of the task force opened a gate at its headquarters and was nearly struck by a bullet discharged by a homemade "zip gun," rigged to fire when the gate moved.
  • Dec. 31, someone rerouted a natural gas line into the task force's headquarters building, setting the stage for an explosion by a spark.

An outlaw motorcycle gang called the Vagos may be behind several attempts to kill or injure police officers and other city workers, police have said. Thirty members of the Vagos were arrested, primarily in the Hemet area, last month. Law officers from 60 agencies also arrested Vagos members in Northern California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada during "Operation Everywhere."

However, police stop short of blaming any one organization or even conceding that all the acts have been related.

"We will not speculate at this point until the investigators are able to complete their work," Brown said.

The cause of the fire has not been released to the public.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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