Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:46 pm today.
By Chad Nesbitt
Buncombe County – In a press release today, Republican candidate for Buncombe County Sheriff Shad Higgins laid out a list of vandalism and violence against him, his family, and his campaign since he announced his run for office.
In the press release Higgins said, “Our campaign has been the target of such aggression: our signs were stolen in mass or torn down, our billboards were destroyed, our windows were shot out and our place of business burned to ashes.”
Higgins’ press release said, “No one would or should approve of such acts, yet, we are most surprised that no county leaders, or even our opponent, ever came forward to publicly condemn these actions. Silence can be just as dangerous as action. So tomorrow, I ask you to not remain silent, just as our leaders and opponent have been silent.”
SBI and ATF investigators still have not announced if the fire at Weaverville Tire, (Higgins’ business), was arson or not. SBI investigator Matt Davis said, “We will not release the report until our investigation is completed.”
Fire fighters that were on the scene the night of the fire who wishes to remain anonymous but tell the paper that arson is a “very high probability.” Asked why? One fire fighter said, “I’m not going to give the details of what we saw but I will be very surprised if it’s deemed an accident.”
The firefighter said, “An arson investigator can usually determine where a hot spot or (hot spots) are in a building pretty easily especially if it is an accident. Asked what is a hot spot? The fire fighter said, “Its the origin of a fire. When they find the origin they can determine the cause. If there is more than one hot spot that usually means arson.”
Asked if there was more than one hot spot at Weaverville Tire? The fire fighter turned away and said, “I’m not going there. No comment.” Another fire fighter joined into the interview and said, “An investigation taking this long means they are waiting on lab results or looking for a suspect.”
Asked the fire fighters if it is unusual for the SBI to take over a structure fire case? Another firefighter said, “No. The SBI is usually called in regarding a high profile person or candidate like Shad Higgins but calling in the ATF is another story.” Asked why? The fire fighter said, “ATF deals with explosives.”
An insurance adjuster that the paper spoke with the day of the fire confirmed that the SBI is called in for political candidates and or celebrities.
The paper has now learned a car was set on fire beside a large Higgins’ political sign in Weaverville the same night Higgins business went up in flames. It has not been determined if the two incidents are related or not.
In addition to shooting out the windows of the business and damage to the signs the campaign announced last week that someone hacked the campaign bank account.
Leicester resident Joel Sprouse said, “If that was Quentin Miller’s business that burned down they would have called this a hate crime.”
Although not a press release the paper has learned Quentin Miller’s campaign issued a Facebook statement about the fire at Higgins’ business. The statement said, “My prayers are with Mr. Higgins and his family today. I am thankful that Mr. Higgins or none of his employees were injured due to the fire.”
Motives as to why vandalism and attacks have come to the Higgins’ campaign are unclear but Bill Beck, Higgins’ campaign manager say, “Nothing like this has ever happened to Mr. Higgins and his family until he ran for office and his television ads were shown.”