In the early-morning hours of May 21, 2001, a firebomb exploded in the office of UW Professor Toby Bradshaw. The blaze burned a large portion of the university's Center for Urban Horticulture and caused around $6 million in damages.
Since then, three of the five Earth Liberation Front members believed to be behind the attacks have pleaded guilty to related charges and a fourth committed suicide in a jail cell.The fifth member of the group and the alleged ringleader, however, has been either on the run or in a Chinese jail cell.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle says 31-year-old Justin Solondz was arrested in Chicago on Wednesday following his expulsion from China, where he had been serving a prison sentence on drug charges.
The attack had been carried out because ELF members were convinced that Professor Brandshaw was working on genetically modified trees and was releasing mutant poplars into the ecosystem.
The 2001 firebombing of the UW Center for Urban Horticulture caused around $6 million in damages.
The ELF said the UW fire specifically was intended to destroy the office of Toby Bradshaw.
"Bradshaw ... continues to unleash mutant genes into the environment that is certain to cause irreversible harm to forest ecosystems," the ELF said. "As long as universities continue to pursue this reckless 'science,' they run the risk of suffering severe losses. Our message remains clear, we are determined to stop genetic engineering."
In reality, the limited amount of genetic tree tissue samples Bradshaw was experimenting with never left the lab, and furthermore, his research was aimed at reducing the amount of natural timber that needed to be harvested--a goal ELF members would have been wise to support.
Solondz, who was in jail in China for growing marijuana, is said to be connected to other arsons in Oregon and California.
He'll make his first appearance in federal court in Tacoma as soon as he's transported from Chicago where he was arrested.