Library Fire

New Braunfels Fire Department personnel responded to the New Braunfels Public Library on Wednesday morning to find trash cans on site ablaze

New Braunfels police are seeking a person suspected of setting trash cans on fire near the steps of the public library early Wednesday. 

For the second time in 12 days, police were called to the New Braunfels Public Library, located in the 700 block of East Common St., around 5:50 a.m. for reports of a fire in front of the building.

“Officers and firefighters arrived to find that three trash cans in the front of the library had been intentionally set on fire,” said David Ferguson, city and New Braunfels Police Department communications coordinator. “Two cans (were) along the curbside of the library’s horseshoe driveway and one underneath the building’s front awning.”

Ferguson said New Braunfels Fire Department personnel extinguished the fires and began an arson investigation. He said damage estimates — to the three trash cans and nearby wooden bench — totaled around $500 or less, with no damages to the library building that was vandalized in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 6.

D.J. Seeger, a businessman and treasurer of Comal County’s Young Republicans, said he was driving on Common Street when he saw one of the fires, in a trash can at the corner of Common and Peace Avenue. 

“I was going toward Union Avenue when the fire got my attention. It was about five or six feet high coming out of the can,” he said. “My first reaction was to get angry — really angry because of the vandalism there a few weeks ago. I mean really, what did the library do to anybody?”

Seeger said he backed his truck into the parking lot next to the cemetery and called 9-1-1.

“I saw one person lighting something and when he spotted me, I pulled out,” he said. “I didn’t want to go after anyone. A few minutes later about four or five police cars and a fire truck arrived. I was there until 7 a.m. giving them a statement.”

NBFD Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Matt Bushnell said his crew was on the scene for about an hour. He said investigators “spoke with a person who we didn’t know was a witness or suspect but turned out to be a witness.”

Bushnell said no accelerants were detected in the fires.

“They just appeared to be normal combustible materials that caught fire,” he said, adding staffers in the city’s fire marshal’s office “are continuing to investigate.”

Previous vandalism

Police on June 11 released video of a suspect throwing rocks that shattered the library’s glass front doors two weekends ago. Ferguson said police are still investigating that incident, which closed the library for two days for repairs. Officials estimated damages at about $600. 

Surveillance cameras captured the 36-second video that showed a white SUV, which police believe is a 2003 to 2008 model Honda Pilot, drive up in front of the library. Exiting from a passenger door was the suspect, which police described as a Hispanic male in his late teens to early 20s with short black hair, a goatee and glasses.

The suspect was seen running up stairs close to the doors and then throwing what police believe to be rocks from his left hand. He quickly ran down the stairs, nearly stumbling and falling as he entered the vehicle, which sped away.

“Although investigators are not ruling out the possibility that this incident might be connected to the previous vandalism incident at the library, the initial results of the investigation indicate that the incidents are not connected,” Ferguson said.

Police wouldn’t say much about Wednesday’s suspect – whether it was a man or woman, age or what the person was wearing.

“All of that is part of the ongoing investigation,” Ferguson said. 

Library still open

Gretchen Pruett, library director, called it another disheartening incident. 

“We are certainly disappointed that the library has had to deal with two recent incidents of vandalism, but our focus remains on providing access to a world of literacy and learning resources to the citizens of New Braunfels,” she said. “This incident had no effect on library operations, and we are open as usual today.”

Those with information on either incident are asked to contact New Braunfels police or Comal County Crime Stoppers, which is offering a reward of up to $4,000 for information leading to an arrest and/or grand jury indictment. 

Those wishing to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers at 830-620-8477; or leave tips at 1-800-640-8422, online at comalcrimestoppers.org, or the “P3 Tips” smartphone app available on iOS and Android devices.

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