Walmart arson suspects arrested; deeper look at manifesto of demands
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) -- Five people were arrested Thursday -- accused in a string of arsons at Walmarts in Mobile and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
All five people were arraigned in Federal Court Thursday afternoon and are now locked up in the Clarke County Jail. Because they are facing federal charges -- we are unable to get access to their mugshots.
Arrested and facing a charge of “conspiracy to maliciously destroy by fire” are Jeffery Sikes, his brother in-law Sean Bottorff, Sean’s stepson Michael Bottorff, and brother’s Quinton and Alexander Olson. All are from Nebraska but were renting a house together in Lillian -- according to the federal indictment. Sikes and Alexander Olson face additional charges related to the arsons. The indictment also lists three unidentified “female conspirators.”
The arrests come nearly nine months after the first fire was set May 27th at the Beltline Walmart. According to the indictment Sikes, Alexander Olson, and an unidentified female were there and seen on surveillance video.
Then a day later another fire was set at the Walmart on Rangeline Road. The indictment says Alexander Olson and an unidentified female were seen setting the fires. Both were heavily disguised.
Customers and employees were still inside the store at both locations.
“It was weird because I was out here cart-pushing actually and I turned my head and the doors were flooded with people -- everybody was really frantic. People could have died -- so that’s kind of crazy,” said Anthony Rivers, Rangeline Road Walmart.
The other two arsons also targeted Walmart stores on June 4th -- one in Gulfport the other in Biloxi. Surveillance images telling the story. The indictment also says Michael Bottorff’s minivan was seen at or near the store during the time the fires were set.
The indictment also says Alexander Olson purchased a “burner phone” at the Daphne Walmart the day of May 28th -- just after the fire at the Rangeline store. Investigators say he paid cash. They believe it was used to not only communicate with the other suspects -- but also send emails to the local media, including FOX 10 News -- sending us a seven-page manifesto in May titled: “Declaration of War and Demands for the People.”
We never aired or published the contents of the manifesto. The group calling themselves -- “The Veterans Order” used the letter to send a quote “Final Warning to Walmart” -- over the company’s commerce practices -- threatening the big box retailer with more fires if demands weren’t met within 48 hours.
Among the seven demands listed in their manifesto -- higher pay for all Walmart employees -- $18 per hour, and better access to affordable company healthcare benefits. It even went on to say they have veterans across the country who are ready to join this fight.
No mention was made of the female suspects in court Thursday. Meanwhile, the case will be heard during the May trial docket.
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