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Suspect arrested after fire at Bernie Sanders' Vermont office

Shant Soghomonian, 35, was arrested Sunday on charges alleging that he used fire to damage the building that houses Sanders’ only congressional office in the state.
Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses Unite Here Local 11 workers at a rally outside the Figueroa Hotel in Los Angeles on Friday.Damian Dovarganes / AP file

A suspect was arrested Sunday in connection with a fire at Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Vermont office that is being investigated as arson, according to the Department of Justice.

Shant Soghomonian, 35, also known as Michael Soghomonian, previously of Northridge, California, was arrested Sunday on charges of using fire to damage a building in Burlington, Vermont, where an office for Sanders is located, the DOJ said in a press release.

Soghomonian allegedly entered the building Friday morning and went to the third floor, where Sanders’ Burlington office is located, according to court records. Security video shows the suspect spraying a liquid near the outer door of the office before lighting the area with a hand-held lighter and a blaze beginning, according to the DOJ.

Bernie Sanders' office in Burlington, Vermont
Bernie Sanders' office in Burlington, Vt.NBC News

The fire damaged the outside of the door to Sanders’ office and surrounding areas and caused sprinklers in the building to discharge on multiple floors, the DOJ said. Multiple employees of Sanders’ occupied the office at the time, but they were not physically injured during the incident, officials added. The number of other occupants who were in the building at the time is unknown, but there were no injuries reported.

fire suspect bernie sanders office
The man pictured above is suspected of setting a fire outside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Burlington office.Burlington Police Dept.

Reached for comment Sunday, Sanders’ office pointed to his statement in response to the fire at his Vermont office.

“I am deeply grateful to the swift, professional, coordinated efforts of local, state, and federal law enforcement in response to the fire at my Vermont office on Friday,” he said. “I am also thankful that none of the many people who were in the office building at the time of the fire were injured.”

“I appreciate the outpouring of support and well-wishes for me and my staff,” he added. “We are proud to be able to continue to serve Vermonters during these challenging times.”

Firefighters on Friday were dispatched to the building where Sanders’ sole congressional office in the state is located. They found “a fire in the vestibule between the elevator and the entrance door to [Sanders’] office,” the fire department said in a news release.

Sanders’ state director, Kathryn Van Haste, said in a statement Friday that no staff members in the building were harmed in the incident. Sanders was not in the building at the time.

Soghomonian’s initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle has not yet been scheduled. He faces a penalty of five to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 if convicted. It is unclear whether Soghomonian has entered a plea.