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FBI Seeking 2 Men In
$2.5M Arson Spree Against Calif SUVs

AP 23aug03

WEST COVINA, CA—Two young men shown in a surveillance videotape released by the FBI are the prime suspects in a $2.5 million vandalism and arson spree that targeted sports utility vehicles parked at car dealerships and on city streets, officials said.

Fat, Lazy Americans - ELF burns SUVs

Slogans such as "Fat, Lazy Americans" and "I (heart) pollution" were painted on vehicles during the early Friday attacks concentrated in Los Angeles' eastern suburbs in the San Gabriel Valley.

The radical Earth Liberation Front stated in an unsigned e-mail Friday that the incidents were "ELF actions" but added it had not be in contact with those responsible.

Hummer burned by ELF W. Covina, CA 22aug03

The underground group has taken responsibility for vandalizing sport utility vehicles at dealerships in Santa Cruz, Erie, Pa., Seattle and Eugene, Ore., and earlier this month claimed responsibility for burning a San Diego area apartment building that was under construction.

At a news conference Friday night, officials with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said they were investigating ELF's connection but hadn't ruled out others might be involved.

The surveillance video showed two white men, possibly in their late teens, darting from car to car, spray-painting graffiti on vehicles at a car dealership.

About 20 vehicles, mostly Hummers, were torched about 5 a.m. at the Clippinger Chevrolet in West Covina and other vehicles were badly damaged, said Rick Genovese, West Covina's assistant fire chief.

I Love Pollution - ELF burns SUVs

SUVs at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Arcadia and Ford and Mitsubishi dealerships in Duarte also were vandalized. The surveillance videotape was from the Ford dealership in Duarte.

Several SUVs parked on residential streets in Monrovia were tagged with "ELF" and other slogans, said Sgt. Tom Wright.

There were no other fires at dealerships, but one SUV in Monrovia was set ablaze in front of someone's home, Wright said. The car was also sprayed with graffiti.

The ELF has claimed responsibility for a slew of arson attacks against commercial entities that members say threaten or damage the environment. It is suspected in a $50 million arson Aug. 1 fire that destroyed a five-story housing complex under construction in San Diego's fast-growing northern edge.

ELF tends to distance itself from criminal acts but urges others to commit them, said Randy Parsons, assistant special agent in charge of the counterterrorism branch of the Los Angeles FBI office.

"They tend to use very young folks because they are impressionable," he said. "They like to manipulate and use people."

Parsons said the perpetrators face multiple charges of arson, which carries a penalty of five to 20 years in prison for each count.


Fires Break Out At Calif Auto Dealership
Arson Suspected

AP 22aug03

WEST COVINA, CA—Fires at an auto dealership destroyed several SUVs and a warehouse Friday. Other vehicles were vandalized with scrawled messages that included "Fat, Lazy, Americans."

"With all the evidence ... its highly likely it's an arson fire," said Rick Genovese, fire marshal for West Covina, a Los Angeles suburb.

The blaze broke out about 5 a.m. at a Hummer and Chevrolet auto dealership. Flames engulfed several vehicles, including Hummer H2s, which are luxury SUVs patterned after the military's workhorse Humvee.

A separate blaze about 100 yards away caved in a warehouse roof and sent up plumes of smoke. There were no reports of injuries.

The word "ELF" was written on at least one vehicle, a possible reference to the ecoterrorist group Earth Liberation Front.

The underground group has claimed responsibility for a slew of arson attacks against commercial entities that members say threaten or damage the environment. It is suspected in an Aug. 1 arson fire that destroyed a five-story complex under construction in San Diego and caused $50 million in damages.

In an e-mail sent Monday to reporters, ELF's news office said it appeared that San Diego-area fire was targeting "rampant urban development," but said it hadn't been in contact with those responsible. No one was injured in that fire.

In Friday's blaze, other slogans written in large letters on the sides and hoods of the vehicles included "I (heart) Pollution," "American Wastefullness" and "Fat, Lazy, Americans."

Genovese said whoever set the fire may have been trying to protest vehicles that pollute the air because of their poor fuel economy. But he said their approach was misguided because "hundreds of tons of pollutants" were spilled off during the fire.


SUVs Burned As Four California Dealerships Vandalized

AP 22aug03

WEST COVINA, CA—Apparent arson fires destroyed or damaged dozens of Hummers and other SUVs early Friday at a car dealership vandalized by anti-pollution graffiti, and similar slogans were found spray-painted on SUVs at three other dealerships in neighboring cities.

The press office of the radical Earth Liberation Front issued an unsigned e-mail calling the incidents "ELF actions" but adding that it had received no communication from the persons responsible. The ELF claimed responsibility earlier this month for burning down a San Diego apartment construction site.

Agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on the scene.

"Since they're (ELF) considered an extremist movement, by definition it falls under possible domestic terrorism violation," FBI spokeswoman Cheryl Mimura said.

Investigators found slogans such as "SUVs suck," "I (heart) pollution" and "Fat, Lazy Americans" spray-painted on several Hummers at the dealership. The initials "ELF" were also found.

"With all the evidence that you're already seeing on the vehicle, it's highly likely it's an arson fire," said Rick Genovese, the assistant fire chief and fire marshal.

The 5 a.m. blazes caused more than $1 million worth of damage at Clippinger Chevrolet in the eastern Los Angeles County suburb. About 20 vehicles, mostly Hummers , were destroyed and more than 20 others were badly damaged, Genovese said. A warehouse also burned.

SUVs at dealerships in Arcadia, Duarte and Monrovia were also vandalized, though there were no other fires.

The ELF has claimed responsibility for a slew of arson attacks against commercial entities that members say threaten or damage the environment. It is suspected in a $50 million arson Aug. 1 fire that destroyed a five-story housing complex under construction in San Diego's fast-growing northern edge.

In an e-mail sent Monday to reporters, ELF's news office said it appeared that San Diego-area fire was targeting "rampant urban development," but said it hadn't been in contact with the persons responsible. No one was injured in the fire.

The group has also taken responsibility for vandalizing sport utility vehicles at dealerships in Santa Cruz and Erie, Pa.

Hummer-maker General Motors (GM) denounced Friday's destruction.

"We are thankful that nobody was hurt," said GM spokesman Brian Akre. "This was a reprehensible criminal act and is under investigation by federal authorities. We will not speculate on who may be responsible; we need to let the investigators do their job. If this was some kind of misguided attempt to make a political statement, those responsible should know that committing arson and putting property and people in danger is not the way to gain public support for their position."

Brian Levin, an associate professor of criminal justice at California State University, San Bernardino, and an expert in domestic terrorism, said the incidents were indicative of a trend toward more violent confrontations by radical environmentalists.

"This movement is increasingly becoming more brazen, and has crossed the line, particularly in Europe, toward physical violence," Levin said.

The Earth Liberation Front operates as a sort of headless umbrella group, Levin said, encouraging individuals to commit acts of "liberation" and credit them to ELF.

Genovese said whoever set the fire may have been trying to protest vehicles that pollute the air because of their poor fuel economy. But he said their approach was misguided.

"There's a lot more pollutants from the fire than the vehicles would pollute during their lifetime," he said. "There's hundreds of tons of pollutants that were spilled off."

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