The alleged Fox News Christmas tree arsonist has three prior arrests and police are saying they believe the incident on Wednesday morning does not appear to be politically motivated.
The suspect who allegedly set the tree on fire was identified by the New York Police Department ( NYPD ) as 49-year-old Craig Tamanaha. He has been charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, arson, criminal nuisance – endangering others, criminal trespass, criminal tampering and disorderly conduct.
According to WABC-TV in New York, Tamanaha has reportedly been arrested three previous times. WABC-TV reported that two of his previous arrests were for charges of drug possession and one was for a charge of public intoxication. Newsweek reached out to the NYPD for confirmation regarding Tamanaha’s previous arrests but did not receive a response in time for publication.
A spokesperson for the NYPD told Newsweek that just after midnight on Wednesday, Tamanaha was allegedly seen by Fox News security officials “climbing the Christmas tree decorated outside their office building near the corner of West 48 Street and Sixth Avenue.”
NYPD officers were alerted to the incident and arrived on the scene, where officers said they saw Tamanaha fleeing the area. According to the NYPD, Tamanaha was arrested shortly after officers arrived “without further incident.”
A lighter was reportedly found in Tamanaha’s possession, according to the NYPD spokesperson. Officers said it was unclear if an accelerant was used to light the fire and that remains under investigation.
The Christmas tree was eventually extinguished by FDNY officials, without further injury or incident, the NYPD spokesperson said.
“The cause of the fire is to be determined by NYC Fire Marshall, there are no injuries reported and the investigation is ongoing,” the spokesperson told Newsweek .
Several videos of the incident were posted across social media, showing the tree in flames.
Raws Alerts Twitter account posted a video of the tree on fire and said that Fox News @ Night host Shannon Bream announced that the tree was on fire during a live broadcast.
“You can see the smoke and aftermath. They’re trying to get that under control. We’re gonna keep you posted,” Bream said during the broadcast.
Following the incident, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott sent out an internal memo to all Fox News employees, which was provided to Newsweek by a Fox News spokesperson.
“We are very grateful to the FDNY which quickly mobilized to extinguish the fire and the NYPD which apprehended the criminal on site, who was since been charged with arson, among multiple other crimes,” Scott said in the memo. “This has become a new wonderful tradition on FOX Square over the last three years. We will not let this deliberate and brazen act of cowardice deter us. We are in the process of rebuilding and installing a new tree as a message that there can be peace, light and joy even during a dark moment like this.”
According to the memo, Fox News Media is currently working on a lighting ceremony for a new tree.
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