Teachers' union HQ repeatedly vandalized in San Jose, arson investigation underway

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San Jose fire investigators are looking into what they describe as a suspicious fire at the site of a teacher’s union hub in East San Jose. And the fire isn’t the only damaging act at the building in recent weeks.

The suspicious fire marks the fourth act of vandalism at this building so far this year, and the third this month. While authorities are still investigating, staffers say this could be the actions of one person carrying a grudge. But they don’t know why.

“There are going to be incidents anywhere you go. But this is an unusual one because it seems like it’s happening, often,” said Dr. Christopher Davis, president of the Calif. Teacher’s Association Berryessa chapter.

He said he and a colleague were inside this teacher’s union headquarters on South Capitol Avenue, when the most recent act of vandalism took place Tuesday afternoon. An unknown man ran through the parking lot screaming, then allegedly threw something onto the roof of the decades-old building.

“The other gentleman in the building said he heard sounds on the roof, like someone was either walking up there or throwing something onto the roof,” said Davis.

Witnesses said a Molotov cocktail – a small, homemade incendiary device – was tossed onto the roof, causing a small fire. San Jose firefighters arrived within minutes to extinguish the blaze, preventing injuries and containing damage to the roof.

“The first in-engine and truck got here and put it out with a small water can, that is a water extinguisher. They didn’t even have to pull a hose,” said Capt. Mitch Matlow of the San Jose Fire Dept.

Union officials said in late January, someone threw cement rocks, shattering floor-to-ceiling length windows. Last week, two more crimes, with a suspect using a metal pipe to break a front office window. And two days after that, someone left a propane tank with its valve open, under the same window. Davis believes the same man who was seen running and screaming Tuesday is responsible for all the crimes.

“It seemed like he was trying to get into the building or trying to damage the building because he believed there to be someone in here that was his enemy,” said Davis.

Staffers representing nine South Bay teacher’s unions use these offices. Davis said they already have a surveillance system in place, and have increased private security patrols during the overnight hours. For now, members are advised to walk in pairs and be alert incase another crime occurs.

“Until this suspect is apprehended we are not going to take any chances,” Davis said.

An arson investigator is working the case to determine the accelerate used in Tuesday’s attack. The surveillance video didn’t provide anything useful to identify the suspect, so if you have information or saw something here two days ago, call the fire arson squad or San Jose police.