A person with a gun fired at least four bullets into a Republican Party office in Florida, officials said Monday as concerns about political violence have risen in advance of the midterm elections.
The Volusia County Republican Party office in South Daytona was empty at the time of the shooting, and no one was injured, South Daytona Police Capt. Mark Cheatham told The Washington Post.
A volunteer arrived at the headquarters, which is located in a small strip mall, on Monday morning to find that a front window was smashed into pieces. Police determined that the window had been shot through after finding four bullets inside the office, in the wall and on the floor, Cheatham said.
Police believe that the shooting occurred between 4 p.m. Sunday, the last time a person was at the office, and 9 a.m. Monday, Cheatham said. Photographs of the office posted by reporters online show that its windows are plastered with signs supporting the Republican Party and GOP candidates.
Cheatham said the office had yet to confirm a motive or identify a suspect in the shooting and had not yet found video evidence or any witnesses.
The shooting follows high-profile events of politically motivated violence that have raised concerns about whether the country’s bitter divide has turned into something even more malignant.
Last week, Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old Florida man, was arrested after officials said he mailed bombs to 13 prominent Democrats, critics of President Trump and media organizations. And on Saturday, a gunman identified by officials as Robert Bowers killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, motivated apparently by bigotry and belief in conspiracies about immigration.
Tony Ledbetter, chairman of the Volusia County Republican Party, told The Post that he blamed Democrats for the shooting at the office.
“That’s the only people who would do this," he said without offering proof. “The sick Democrats.”
Cheatham said the police would be stepping up patrols around the Republican office as well as the local Democratic outpost in town.
Jewel Dickson, chairwoman of the Volusia Democratic Party, told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that the shooting was “appalling.”
“It’s a sign of things going wrong," she said. “I would not be quick to blame a Democrat for doing that. It could be anybody angry.”
“An attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us, and everyone should feel safe participating in our Democracy,” she said in a statement.
Ledbetter said volunteers at the office conducting get-out-the-vote efforts in advance of the midterm elections next week were already getting back to work, though he planned to arrange for 24-hour armed security through the election.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Ledbetter said. “We’re putting a piece of plywood up.”
About six to eight people work at the office in shifts, he said. Ledbetter said he believed that the shooting took the form of a drive-by at night and said he was skeptical that police would ever find a suspect.
“You’ll never figure out who did this,” he said. “This is a small complex; there was no cameras outside — nothing to record anything.”
He said he planned to install security cameras for future elections.
“My idea of civility is: Go vote, and if you don’t win, suck it up and go home,” he said.
About 55 percent of Volusia County voters chose Trump in 2016.
Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry, who represents the area, condemned the shooting in a statement released to reporters.
“After one of the deadliest 72 hours in America, I’m angry to learn that shots were fired at a Republican Party field office in my district,” he said. “Your party affiliation should never make you a target of gun violence.”