Crime & Courts

Truck tampering may have been firebomb attempt, LGBT group says

The day after the Wichita Pride Parade was held, Equality Kansas found vandalism to a rental truck used for Pride events that the group says may have been an attempt to create an improvised firebomb. (Sept 25, 2016)
The day after the Wichita Pride Parade was held, Equality Kansas found vandalism to a rental truck used for Pride events that the group says may have been an attempt to create an improvised firebomb. (Sept 25, 2016) Eagle correspondent

Someone vandalized a truck used at a Wichita LGBT Pride event last week in what event organizers say may have been an attempt to create an improvised firebomb.

A police report on the incident, which took place sometime the night of Sept. 25 or the morning of Sept. 26, notes a cut battery cable and the recovery of a gas can and drill bit found underneath the U-Haul rental truck. The truck was in the parking lot at the office of Equality Kansas, 800 N. Market.

The group is one of Kansas’ most visible advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Sgt. Nikki Woodrow of the Wichita Police Department said Monday that police haven’t identified either a suspect or a motive in the crime, which remains under investigation. The brief police report indicated it’s being treated as a case of destruction to a vehicle.

Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said his organization thinks someone tried to rig the 24-foot box truck to catch fire in protest of the group’s message of LGBT rights and inclusion.

Somebody tried to turn a vehicle that was parked here at our building into an improvised incendiary device.

Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas

“Somebody tried to turn a vehicle that was parked here at our building into an improvised incendiary device,” Witt said. “I’m angry. It’s 2016. Gay people shouldn’t have to be facing things like that.”

He said the damage was discovered at about 9 a.m. on Sept. 26, the morning after an LGBT Pride parade through downtown Wichita and an associated festival at the Mid-America All-Indian Center. Organizers had rented the truck to transport chairs, tables and other supplies to and from the festival, Witt said.

They parked it at Equality Kansas after the festival the night of Sept. 25, planning to return it to U-Haul the next morning, Witt said.

But the truck wouldn’t start when they turned the key, and the battery was inaccessible in a locked box. They called U-Haul, and the company dispatched a mechanic, who discovered the tampering – including the gasoline container under the vehicle, Witt said.

Witt said Equality Kansas has stepped up security measures around its office. He said if someone was trying to send a message by tampering with the truck, it failed.

“It’s ridiculous to think they’re going to terrorize us into stopping what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re not going to stop.”

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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