The Wyoming U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged a Laramie man with vandalizing and burning the Albany County Republican Party headquarters last month, according to the statement supporting a criminal complaint filed in federal court on Tuesday.
Kellen Michael Sorber is charged with one count of using fire to commit a felony, which is punishable by at least five years to 20 years imprisonment, according to the complaint written by an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The agent’s statement did not say if Sorber had been taken into custody, but the Wyoming U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed a motion to detain him before the trial.
The fire was reported at 3:25 a.m. Sept. 6, at the GOP headquarters, 214 E. Ivinson Ave. The Laramie Fire Department responded and extinguished a small fire. Firefighters also found a resident in a second-floor apartment above the office. He left the apartment and was not injured, according to the criminal complaint.
The fire department reported the building had suffered heat and smoke damage, and a department detective saw a broken window facing an alley on the west side of the office.
The detective found two pieces of a cinderblock inside and a third piece on a trash container in the alley next to the broken window. He also found a partially consumed cigarette on a table, the burnt remains of a folding camping-style chair, and burnt remnants of a soft drink can box inside the office, according to the criminal complaint.
These items were collected and sent to the BATFE laboratories for testing and analysis.
Preliminary DNA testing results were able to determine a dominant DNA profile.
Investigators obtained security surveillance video from a computer business and a cafe on the same block.
The video at 2:19 a.m. showed an unidentified individual walking a bicycle to the rear of the cafe, parking it, and throwing a backpack onto the roof of the one-story cafe. This person picked up a cinderblock, dropped it and broke it into several pieces. He walked the bicycle toward the GOP office, which was out of view of the security camera. About 3:21 a.m., a person walking with a bicycle and having the same appearance as the person as seen earlier. He propped the bicycle against the wall of the cafe, stood on the bicycle, retrieved the backpack and walked away.
About four minutes later, an individual is seen running from north to south, and seconds later running from south to north. That person’s appearance was consistent with a statement provided by the person who was earlier saw the fire and unsuccessfully tried to get water from a business to put out the fire.
Investigators determined a Sorber was a person of interest and worked at the cafe, that did did not have a driver’s license nor own a vehicle.
They began watching Sorber, and one was able to contact him and surreptitiously obtain DNA from a beer can he had. That DNA evidence was consistent with that found on the cigarette and the three pieces of cinderblock.
An investigator determined that Sorber had his cell phone within one-tenth of a mile from a cell town next to the cafe.
On Oct. 16, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant and obtained DNA directly from Sorber.
Monday, a BATFE forensic biologist provided the agent with preliminary test results from the DNA obtained from Sorber was consistent from the DNA found on the cigarette, cinderblock and beer can.
BATFE agents interviewed the owners of the building who said they leased it to an individual who subleased it to the Albany County GOP, and rented the two apartments above the office.
The agent who wrote the criminal complaint determined the building was used in interstate or foreign commerce.
The Albany GOP Office reopened on Oct. 8.
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