DENVER – A man who has been arrested on suspicion of starting a fire that destroyed a sheepskin store near Denver has been linked to two other fires in Utah which destroyed business he allegedly deemed were cruel to animals, police said.
Walter Bond was arrested Thursday night. Federal prosecutors have charged the 34-year-old with one count of arson in connection with the fire at the Sheepskin Factory in Glendale in April.
Bond hasn't been charged in the other fires. He allegedly told a friend that he started the fire that destroyed the Leather Factory in Salt Lake City in June and the Tiburon Restaurant in Sandy, Utah, which served foie gras.
A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent said Bond called a friend that he hadn't seen in 12 years and referred to a website associated with the Animal Liberation Front.
A posting on the website claimed responsibility for the fire in Glendale, saying it was done "in defense and retaliation for all the innocent animals that have died cruelly at the hands of human oppressors."
The posting also claimed responsibility for the fires in Salt Lake City and contained the warning: "Be warned that making a living from the use and abuse of animals will not be tolerated. Also be warned that leather is every bit as evil as fur."
It was signed, "ALF Lone Wolf."
ATF and other federal law enforcement agents listened and recorded a conversation between Bond and the friend during a meeting in a Denver hotel, during which time Bond claimed responsibility for the three fires and said he was "Lone Wolf."
Court documents said Bond has the word "vegan" tattooed on his neck.
"Terrorism in the name of animal rights is every bit as dangerous and destructive as the other threats facing our country today," Denver FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis said in a statement. "The actions of Mr. Bond resulted in significant property damage and worse, could have resulted in the loss of life."
Bond appeared in court Friday without an attorney. U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Watanabe advised Bond of the charge and appointed the federal public defender's office to represent him. An attorney had not yet entered an appearance in court.
Bond's detention and preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 28.