Last Saturday, a woman named Sharon Agnes Sailly paid a visit to the main branch of the Tacoma Public Library. It was a fairly busy day and more than 250 people were inside. A video showed her entering the downtown facility carrying a white bag. Sailly is well known to the staff, as she comes to the library almost every day. Many employees call her “Sunshine.”
Inside that white bag, according to Tacoma police, was a bottle of charcoal lighter, which, police say, Sailly purchased at a nearby Safeway. When she was apprehended, half the bottle was empty, and there was no evidence that she used the fluid to cook up some hotdogs.
According to charging documents, Sailly took the lighter fluid out of the bag and used it to set a number of books on fire in the American history section of the library. She then up and left the library, and, 30 seconds later, the fire alarm sounded. She seemed surprised that the sprinkler system didn’t go off. Police discovered that a few books were destroyed, including biographies of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon, and that some of the lighter fluid was on the carpet.
The charging documents also say that Sailly admitted to being in the library that day, and that she bought the lighter fluid and was carrying a pack of matches. She said she had “an issue” with a library staff member.
“When asked,” court papers say, “if she had purchased the charcoal lighter, the defendant replied, ‘I wanted to burn the library.’”
Sailly pleaded not guilty Monday in Pierce County Superior Court to first-degree arson. She is being held with a bail set at $500,000. Prosecutors say she been convicted of arson before and poses a danger to society – not to mention historians who’ve written books about Republican presidents.
Library employees do not believe Sunshine had any political motives.
“It’s very upsetting,” Ron Domkoski, the library’s community manager told KING-TV. “It’s upsetting to our patrons. First they were robbed of using the library all-day Saturday, which is a very busy day for us, and burning books? Yeah, it hurts.”