By on December 17, 2019

The Detroit Fire Department has been going back and forth on the July 13th fire at the United Automobile Workers’ headquarters since its investigation began. Arson was initially on the table before being swiftly ruled out, and the probe continued by private investigators contending with insurance claims, seemingly free of suspicion.

Investigators now believe the fire could have been set intentionally, without attaching any conviction to those claims.

“I was told at the time that they did not think it was arson,” Detroit Fire Department Deputy Commissioner Dave Fornell told Automotive News in an interview from Monday. “That wasn’t a final verdict … When I did some inquiries with the press, I asked investigators and they were saying at that point it was ruled out.” 

From Automotive News:

The fire at the UAW took place amid a broadening federal investigation into corruption at the highest levels of the union’s leadership. Gary Jones has since resigned as UAW president and was replaced last month by Rory Gamble. Altogether, 13 union and Fiat Chrysler officials have been charged with crimes; 11 have pleaded guilty.

That timing served to make the whole event suspicious; plenty of unsubstantiated claims arose that a hypothetical arsonist could have been trying to destroy evidence. But justice cannot be sussed out via speculation and real evidence may still be forthcoming. The FBI subpoenaed the UAW for visitor logs and security camera footage in the days proceeding the fire at the union’s HQ, which were turned over in August.

“The Department of Justice is very suspicious about that fire if they’re asking for video and visitor logs. They’re concerned records may have been destroyed in the fire, and God forbid if it was arson,” Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor, told The Detroit News last week. “If evidence was destroyed, that’s obstruction of justice.”

While the status of the FBI’s investigation remains less than clear, the local probe is still open with little to no interdepartmental contact with the feds. “The FBI has never contacted me regarding this fire and have not taken over the origin and cause investigation,” Copley said on Monday. “If the FBI is independently investigating the fire, I have no knowledge of the extent of that investigation.”

[Image: James R. Martin/Shutterstock]

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