Threatening letter to mayor, fire may be linked

Letter writer upset about cougar's death
May 16, 2008 8:50:44 PM PDT
A threatening letter sent to Chicago's Mayor Daley has led to an investigation into a fire at his summer home in Michigan. Originally thought a brush fire, officials now believe someone may have set the blaze in late April at his Grand Beach, Michigan, home in protest to the shooting of a wild cougar by Chicago police.

The fire, now classified as an arson investigation, started in the backyard of Daley's Berrien County, Mich., home on April 24. It spread quickly in the dry dune grass to two neighboring homes. A million-dollar mansion next door was destroyed. Daley's home did not catch fire and no one was injured.

"It was extremely windy and just a wall of fire just rolling along and it was moving very fast. It was burning dune grass," said George Keeler, Grand Beach Police Dept. "... when it was dry like it was that day, extremely quickly."

One of the neighboring homes that caught fire is owned by Bradley Griffith, chair of the Chicago Board of Options.

"The home was finished about four years ago," said Griffith. "Because of the grass it went up in a matter of minutes. It's devastating and a little creepy."

Berrien County police said a threatening letter was sent to the mayor's office before fire. Police said the writer indicated he or she was upset police shot and killed a cougar in Chicago's Roscoe Village on April 14. An investigation into the possible connection is underway.

"That investigation is being worked jointly between the Chicago FBI and the Chicago Police Department under its joint terrorism task force. I'm not going to go into details but what I can tell you is we've taken every measure to make sure the mayor and his family remain safe," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Dept. "We take any threats against the mayor- or anyone else- to be serious."

Grand Beach is a quiet, summer community. Some neighbors have trouble believing the fire was intentional.

"I think it was an accident. I would prefer not to tell you how I think it started because that's just one person's opinion. I think it was an accident. Somebody threw something out the window," said Bob Fisher, neighbor.

"I'm not worried about it. I don't think there's anything to worry about," said Pauline Miniat, neighbor.


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