New clue in torching of Newark candidate's campaign bus

Josh Einiger reports from Newark.
February 20, 2014 6:07:26 PM PST
Police have released a surveillance image of the man they want to question about the fire on the bus of a Newark mayoral candidate.

He was spotted in the area where Ras Baraka's campaign bus caught fire on Sunday morning.

Police believe it was deliberately torched. The bus was empty and no one was hurt.

Surveillance video shows a male Caucasian or Hispanic approximately 5'8" to 5'9," wearing a dark colored jack, a dark colored hooded sweat shirt, light colored blue jeans and black boots in the vicinity.

People walking to church spotted the smoke.

"You get a little vandalism, but you don't get anyone to set bus on fire, for what?" said Fuquan Hammond, a business owner.

It happened right outside bail bondsman Fuquan Hammond's business. Out his window he saw the campaign bus for mayoral candidate Ras Baraka was a smoky mess.

Vandals had gone to town on it, breaking windows, torching seats, pouring sugar into the gas tank.

"I'm not angry at all," mayoral candidate Ras Baraka said.

The bus was parked right in front of Baraka's campaign headquarters. The Newark Municipal Councilman is hoping to be the permanent replacement for now Senator Cory Booker.

Baraka wonders if it was random vandalism or an act of political sabotage.

"I think it's just misguided, hopefully some young vandals did it in the street, whoever did it, it was wrong and ultimately they'll be brought to justice around it," Baraka said.

Whatever the motivation, it's little but a sideshow in a city plagued by poverty, whose state managed school district is pushing a controversial privatization plan that could result in mass school closings.

There are big issues in this troubled town, where voters say they won't be distracted.

"It's trying to be a distraction, but we're staying focused," a resident said.

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office and Sheriff's Office are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the fire.

Based on the preliminary investigation the fire appears to have been intentionally set.

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office Major Crimes Task Force is handling the investigation which is active and ongoing.

Anyone with information should contact the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Major Crimes tips line at 1-877-847-7432.