Tulane campus police have arrested three suspects, two men and one woman, in the arson fire at the dorm room door of two university students whose personal information had been spread online revealing their participation in a libertarian youth organization.
Robert Money, 21, David Shelton, 20, and Naima Okami, 20, will be facing counts of aggravated arson, according to Blake Arcuri, the general counsel of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana. It's unclear how the police identified the three individuals.
The fire reportedly happened on Saturday at 12:20 a.m., when sophomore Peyton Lofton, 20, says he received a text from his roommate and best friend, Jackson Arnold, 20, that their dorm room was on fire.
Lofton was out with friends at the time.
“It took a while for me to process last night when they said someone lit the door on fire," says Lofton. "I was originally really angry, stormed back to campus and once I got there reality started setting in. I was a little scared, a little nervous, I could have been sleeping..."
Unlike Lofton, Arnold was in the room when it happened, but was not injured.
"I was in my room, and the fire alarm goes off. I go to open my door and the sign is on fire, so it was pretty small flame I blew it out and left," said Arnold. "I was feeling pretty mad, pissed off, I guess it was less of a scared feeling and more angry."
Arnold says Lofton was definitely angrier than he was, because it felt more personal for him.
It isn't clear what motivated the attack, but Lofton says it's possible the dorm room was targeted as a result of him being doxed a few days earlier for being a member of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a student political organization. Doxing is where someone posts personal information for others to find.
On March 17, the Twitter account associated with the handle, @YALexposed, posted a screenshot of his Facebook and mentioned he was a Tulane student. The screenshot read "Tulane's own Peyton Lofton seems to like YAL's offensive Facebook page."
Before that alleged doxxing attempt, he says signs were posted near campus, calling YAL a racist and misogynistic organization and exposing some of its members.
It's not clear yet if the three people arrested were behind the @YALexposed Twitter handle. Lofton said he's also had previous altercations with a student, but didn't want to make anyone a target until all the facts are out.
After the alleged arson attack, residents were let back in the building at 1:20 a.m. and 40 minutes later the first officer arrived on the scene.
Lofton says Detective David Harris came to their dorm around 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and informed the two he was assigned to the case. They say he took the burned sign that was previously on the door as evidence and was reviewing security footage. It's not clear if the footage he reviewed helped officers arrest the three suspects.
Lofton says the initial shock is wearing off and that his family lives 20 minutes away in case he ever feels unsafe. He says he won't back down to people trying to spread fear.
“I don’t want to let them win, so I plan on staying on campus and not backing down and work twice as hard" said Lofton. "I trust that Tulane will handle the problem; I'm not naïve and still aware of the danger and trying to be as safe as possible.”
Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA, tweeted about the incident. Kirk told Fox it's a sick and sad day that someone would attempt an arson attack on another because of their beliefs.
"It's a traumatic thing for anyone to go through, an attempted felony arson on property," Kirk told Fox. "But he’s [Peyton] very tough and wants to have people held accountable."
An aggravated arson charge could result in up to 20 years in prison, if convicted. It's defined in Louisiana as intentionally setting a fire where it is foreseeable that human life is endangered.
There was no mention of the incident on the Tulane Police daily crime log.
Money and Shelton are students at Tulane while Okami attends Brown University, Mike Strecker, executive director of PR at Tulane, told TulaneHullabaloo.