[Updated] Arsonist Strikes Ward Office of St. Louis Alderman Antonio French

click to enlarge French's community office prior to Tuesday's blaze.
French's community office prior to Tuesday's blaze.
Update: Police have a suspect in custody, 31-year-old Richard Williamson. Authorities believe that Williamson tried to set fire to the building a few days prior to Tuesday's incident but was unsuccessful.

Original story follows...

An unknown arsonist lit fire to the community office of Alderman Antonio French (21st Ward) early yesterday morning. The incident occurred at 4:38 a.m. Tuesday when, according to police, a male suspect wearing a black "do-rag," white T-shirt and black jeans poured an accelerant into the mail slot at 4202 Natural Bridge Avenue. The suspect was caught on tap lighting the liquid and leaving the scene.

The police department's Bomb and Arson Squad is now investigating.

Daily RFT could not immediately reach French for comment last night. But our first question: Does the aldermen have any idea who might have wanted to torch his office?

The topic of possible suspects did not come up in an interview French did with KTVI yesterday. Instead, the alderman said the bigger story was how the community rallied to pitch in to clean up the mess. Besides an extremely charred front door, the building suffered mostly superficial damage.

Ironically, perhaps, French's office is connected to a police substation, and last year French spent $400,000 in Capital Improvement Funds to install surveillance cameras in the ward intended to curb crime. One of the cameras is right outside his office door and feeds to multi-panel video display in the adjacent police substation. We're assuming one of two things: A) no one was at the police substation when the fire occurred or 2) we're dealing with a seriously ballsy arsonist.

More info as it develops.