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Man accused of using gasoline to torch security booth at FBI Chicago headquarters

Surveillance footage allegedly shows James P. Lofton using gasoline to set fire to the guard shack outside the FBI Chicago headquarters on West Roosevelt Road on Nov. 4, 2022, according to a criminal complaint. (U.S. District Court records/TNS)

A man threatened a security officer posted outside the FBI’s Chicago headquarters then returned to the security station almost a month later and started a fire outside, according to a criminal complaint filed Sunday.

James Lofton is accused of maliciously damaging and destroying a U.S. government building by means of fire, according to the complaint.

He was charged after he was seen on Friday afternoon lighting fire to a jacket he had just taken off and left outside of the FBI Chicago Field Office, 2111 W. Roosevelt Road, at the security station at the building’s eastern entrance.

Lofton had previously approached the same security station the morning of Oct. 7 and said to an officer who was on duty, “I’m going to burn you, and everyone is going to die,” according to the complaint. The officer, who did not know Lofton, reported the incident, and Lofton paced near the security station until security personnel and Chicago police arrived.

Lofton showed the investigators his Illinois state identification card and then requested medical assistance and was taken away in an ambulance. He wasn’t seen back at the FBI office until Friday, according to the complaint.

The same officer whom Lofton threatened in October was inside the security station Friday and recognized him when he approached at about 3 p.m. with a plastic jug containing an unknown liquid and wearing a jacket, according to the complaint.

He then took off the jacket, secured it to the station’s emergency call box and poured a clear liquid out from the jug onto the clothing, the charges stated. Lofton could then be seen removing something from his pants pocket and touching it to the jacket, which immediately burst into flames. The remnants of the jacket and plastic jug were found at the scene, and both items smelled “strongly of gasoline,” according to the complaint.

Lofton was shown on the video walking away east on Roosevelt Road. Officers canvassed the area and found Lofton about one-third of a mile away on Roosevelt. During the arrest, officers found a lighter on the ground nearby, according to the complaint.


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