Breaking News Emails
Someone shot up a local branch office of the Florida GOP, officials discovered on Monday morning.
The Volusia County Republican Party office was hit with gunfire sometime between 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon and 9 a.m. Monday, officials said. Tony Ledbetter, the county GOP chairman, told NBC News that a volunteer came in to open the office on Monday morning only to discover the front windows were damaged and found bullets. There was no one inside at the time of the shooting.
"We’ve never had this problem before, never had this level of hate being thrown at ourselves," Ledbetter said. "We’re just trying to conduct ourselves and trying to win elections."
Police are requesting security footage from neighboring businesses to narrow down an exact time for the crime and identify any potential suspects. South Daytona Police Capt. Mark Cheatham told NBC News that four bullets were found at the office, which is in a strip mall.
Cheatham declined to speculate on a motive for the attack or whether it was a result of increased partisan tensions in the week since Miami, Florida, resident Cesar Sayoc targeted critics of President Donald Trump. Sayoc targets included a number of Democratic political figures, such as former president Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"It’s hard to say," Cheatham told NBC News. "It could be one of the workers in there had a bad relationship with someone."
But both the Volusia County Republican Party office and the Democratic Party office, located close by, will be put under extra patrol as a precaution, Cheatham added.
Ledbetter, who said he's been a political activist for more than 40 years and that he'd been serving as chairman of the Volusia County Republican Party since 2012, told NBC News that he believes the crime was politically motivated.
"To me this is a Democrat," Ledbetter said. "There’s no other reason that anyone else would shoot into my office."
In a strip mall with about 10 other businesses, the only building targeted was the Republican building, Ledbetter noted.
"We’re not stopping. I’m not closing my office. We’ll more than likely have armed security in less than a day," he said. "If the Democrats have a problem with me, then they came out and vote."
Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, denounced the act of violence in a statement on Monday:
"It’s unbelievable to me that we have reached a low in political discourse where volunteers for campaigns now how to fear for their safety,” Ingoglia said. “We stand against any type of violence against any volunteer, Republican or Democrat. People should have the right to exercise their right of free speech without fear of retaliation."