Friday, January 7, 2011

Tea Party 'Bomb Scare' All Smoke, No Fire

January 7, 2011 - Chicago - Reports of a “bomb scare” at a rogue “tea party” group’s Christmas party last month were, to say the least, exaggerated. Unfortunately, a lot of bloggers ran the story without question. What many have called a “bomb scare” was nothing of the sort. Catherina Wojtowicz, leader of the “Chicago Tea Patriots,” made claims and statements about the event that would appear to be exaggerations or lies. The event happened at Dugan’s Irish Pub on Friday, December 10. Dugan’s is a “cop bar,” popular among officers of the Chicago Police Department. Dugan’s is located at 128 South Halsted Street. The Chicago Tea Patriots used to be part of the Illinois chapter of Tea Party Patriots until it was kicked out (see "Beware Chicago's Fake Tax Day Tea Party Event"). Hers is the group that gained national notoriety for mocking the grieving family of deceased woman at a town hall meeting in November, 2009. Wojtowicz is a known liar and has been convicted in court at least once in 2009 for telephone harassment. She is known for her threatening and vile emails. Wojtowicz waited six days before she sent an email blast to supporters, bloggers and the media. Her December 16 email began with a screaming, all-caps headline that said, “Arson At Christmas Party -We Will Not Be Silenced!!” Under the headline, there was a “Statement from Chicago Tea Patriots founder Catherina Wojtowicz 12/16/10.” She did not post videos of the Dugan’s event until December 20, ten days later. (See the videos here.) UPDATE: A fourth video can be seen here. All of the videos are difficult to watch because of the exceptionally bad alcohol impaired camera work by Wojtowicz. Fingers often cover the camera lense, which is aimed at the floor much of the time. Most of the fourth video gives the viewer several minutes of splendid views of the floor on seems to be a balcony, where Wojtowicz asks fellow smokers for a cigarette after just leaving the smoke-filled bar. Although Wojtowicz had plenty of time to do so, she did not give us a view of the source of the smoke. “We were the target of an arson Friday,” she wrote, “at our Christmas Party.” The email was also posted on the group’s website, and went on to say that “At appromixmately [sic] 8 p.m. smoke began to fill the rooms of Dugan’s Irish Pub where we hosting our Christmas Party. The entire bar soon became engulfed with thick, heavy smoke and the bar was evacuated.” However, the smoke was light enough that the far ends of the bar can be seen without difficulty. As for being the “target of an arson,” it would seem that that there was indeed a very small fire somwhere inside of Dugan’s, perhaps the men’s room. It might have been attempted arson, but that’s about the only thing that rings true in Wojtowicz email. She presented no evidence that the trash fire was directed at her group. She wrote that the cause of the smoke was “four devices, which appeared to be roadside flares, were taped together and left lit and smoldering in the trash can of the men’s bathroom,” and that “On the lid of the toliet [sic] seat, written in red, it read: F#CK THE CHICAGO TEA PARTY.” None of the videos showed the inside of the men’s room, however, so we don’t see the toilet seat. No still photos of it were posted, either. Perhaps the best part of the fourth (and longest) video is that it proves that nobody was in a panic or in any hurry to evacuate the building. We cannot see faces in the badly done video, but we hear the foul-mouthed Wojtowicz and others joking and speaking about unrelated things in a relaxed manner. The fire fighters have not arrived yet; sirens can be heard in the background, but the crowd is still in the bar. Bloggers had a field day with the story. Michael Volpe posted a story at on December 20 with the headline Raw Footage of the Bomb Scare at the Chicago Tea Patriots event.” Volpe’s story led off with a paragraph that included the word “bomb” four more times. He referred to the event as a “bomb scare.” “Last week,” wrote Volpe, “Chicago Elections 2011 broke the story that wnt [sic] viral on the conservative blogosphere that a recent Christmas Party event at Dugan's had to break up after a makeshift bomb blew up and filled the bar with smoke. Later bomb and arson found, ‘fuck the tea party’ written in the bathroom next to where the bomb was set off. Here's exclusive never before seen footage of the aftermath of the bomb scare.” It's interesting that since the original posting, that paragraph has been removed from his post. Volpe was wrong in a number of ways: Bomb and Arson did not respond to the event. A single Chicago Police Department evidence technician investigated the scene about three hours after it happened. The “makeshift bomb,” as he called it, was described by Wojtowicz herself as four road flares taped together. Road flares don’t explode, nor are they designed to. Road flares could be used as an incendiary device in an arson attempt, but they cannot accurately be called a bomb. In fact, the Fire Department did not seem to regard it as a bomb scare. It’s no wonder, really, why the local mainstream media completely ignored this story that has (pardon the pun) more smoke than fire. Wojtowicz whined about this on her group’s website in late December. In typical hysteria, she wrote in a Christmas email message, “I cannot begin to tell you how disturbing this is yet the larger question at hand is WHERE IS THE MEDIA? Chicago media has completely blacked us out and not one drop of ink has been sacrificed to write about this terrorist act.” The media has ignored the story because there is no “there” there, and howling about an imagined terrorist plot to disrupt a little tea party’s Christmas party just hasn’t been at the top of most editors’ lists of “must do” news stories. The real story is not the trash fire in the men’s room, but the desperate exaggerations of the event by Wojtowicz, who most of the local media by now realize is not a reliable source of information. Unfortunately, Volpe was just one of many bloggers who swallowed the story whole and regurgitated it out for public consumption without ever chewing on it first. The videos of the event clearly show firefighters moving casually through the bar while patrons chat and mill about. Volpe said that he was presenting “exclusive never before seen footage of the aftermath of the bomb scare,” but the video footage was posted on YouTube by Wojtowicz, and Volpe linked to it there. It was exclusive to YouTube, perhaps, but not to Chicago Elections 2011. Volpe wrote, “Hopefully this footage lays that to rest.” It does nothing of the sort. Too many of the statements made by Wojtowicz - and by Volpe - are either contradicted by the videos or not addressed at all. Other bloggers also seemed to accept the videos without question. (You have to wonder if they actually watched the videos and, if they did, whether they actually gave them any thoughtful analysis.) “According to bomb and arson sources at the Chicago Police Department,” wrote Volpe, “the makeshift bomb was most likely a road flare.” Volpe apparently got the road flare theory from Wojtowicz, who claimed that Bomb and Arson told her that the smoke came from “four devices, which appeared to be roadside flares...taped together.” Volpe wrote that it was only one “road flare.” Wojtowicz’s statement is reproduced below. I have injected my own notes and questions. ARSON AT CHRISTMAS PARTY -WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED!! Posted on December 16, 2010 [Thursday] A Statement from Chicago Tea Patriots founder Catherina Wojtowicz 12/16/10: “We were the target of an arson Friday [December 10] at our Christmas Party.” NOTE: The party was on Friday, Dec. 10. Why did it take her six days to post this story, and another 10 to post the videos to YouTube? “At appromixmately [sic] 8 p.m. smoke fill the rooms of Dugan’s Irish Pub where we hosting our Christmas Party.” NOTE: A confidential source within the Chicago Police Department looked up the Dugan’s event for me. He told me that the first 911 call about the event came in “around 7:00 p.m.” Wojtowicz wrote that the smoke didn’t start until around 8:00 p.m. “The entire bar soon became engulfed with thick, heavy smoke and the bar was evacuated.” NOTE: Wojtowicz’s own videos show convincingly that the smoke was neither thick nor heavy. The bar was slowly and calmly “evacuated” only after the Chicago Fire Department arrived. As mentioned already, the videos show that bar was not evacuated until well after the bar filled with smoke. “Within moments the Chicago Fire and Police arrived and began to clear and secure the premises.” NOTE: “Within moments” is exaggeration, as the videos show. Wojtowicz contradicts herself. Was the bar evacuated before or after CFD arrived? She indicated that it was evacuated as it became engulfed in smoke, but immediately wrote that the bar was not cleared of people until after the arrival of CFD. In one of the videos, we see firefighters casually walking through the bar, not ordering anybody out, and the cameraperson (Wojtowicz?) is joking and chatting with them while apparently in no hurry to flee for her life.) “We were detained outside while firemen cleared the bar.” NOTE: Nobody was “detained.” Nobody was held there against their will. All were free to leave if they wanted to an. Only one of the four videos was made outside of Dugan’s on December 10. In that 10-second long video, “Dugan's Part III Aftermath,” we see nothing more than some guy with a mustache watching two CFD SUVs reposition themselves on the street. The vehicles are not even fire trucks, and no police vehicles are seen. “After waiting an hour outside, with other dozens of other bar patrons, we were allowed back in to gather our belongings. The bar was covered in soot and patrons had great difficulty in breathing. Bar management had to close the bar for the night, thus losing revenue during the busy Christmas season. “Tuesday I received a phone call from detectives from the Chicago Bomb and Arson Department who informed me that four devices, which appeared to be roadside flares, were taped together and left lit and smoldering in the trash can of the men’s bathroom.”
NOTE: It’s possible, but highly questionable, that somebody in Bomb and Arson called Wojtowicz. Why would they call her at all? She doesn’t own Dugan’s and was merely a patron that night, and had no need to know this information in an ongoing investigation. Also, as noted above, road flares are not explosive, so why did Michael Volpe call it a “bomb scare?” In his Dec. 20 article, he wrote that the “Christmas Party event at Dugan's had to break up after a makeshift bomb blew up.” Even Wojtowicz, though, said nothing about anything exploding. Perhaps, as a non-native speaker of English, Michael Volpe does not know that “blew up” means “exploded.” “On the lid of the toliet [sic] seat, written in red, it read: F#CK THE CHICAGO TEA PARTY” NOTE: Why don’t we see that in any video? Why no photo of it? “Bomb and arson police have deemed this an arson and are now investigating.” NOTE: My CPD source said that the event is being treated as “a Level 2 attempted arson” with low priority. The low priority is also indicated by the fact that only one evidence technician from CPD went to Dugan’s after the event, but did not arrive at Dugan’s until around 10:00 p.m., hours after the event. My CPD source told me on December 17 that Bomb and Arson did not go to Dugan’s at all. “To those who came to Friday’s party — THANK YOU! To those who we missed because you came after the bar closed — THANK YOU AND I’M SORRY WE MISSED YOU!! To those who were unable to make the party, here’s your 2nd chance!! “Because the devices were left in the bathroom it will be difficult to deduce who is the offender from videos...” NOTE: This makes no sense. Why would it be more difficult to figure out who the offender is just because the alleged road flare/s burned in a bathroom? Perhaps Wojtowicz means security videos inside of Dugan’s. However, consider this: The situation was, as we see in Wojtowicz’s own videos, not frantic. After all, she and others waited inside the bar until the firefighters arrived. We see them inside as the firefighters arrive. That leads to a question: Why did nobody take video of the flare/s that were “left lit and smoldering in the trash can” of the men’s bathroom? And, as a native speaker of English, doesn’t Wojtowicz know that “smoldering” means a slow burning, low heat fire, as opposed to “raging?” “...and because nobody was killed or harmed (thankfully), fingerprints will not be processed for anywhere from six months to a year.” NOTE: This is a bizarre statement. My CPD source expressed great surprise when I told him that Wojtowicz claimed it would take so long to process fingerprints. If the Dugan’s event was really was “arson,” said my CPD source then any fingerprints that might be found would be processed with high priority. Granted, it could take years to match them with any offender, but to simply process them would take a very short time. Also keep this in mind: A public restroom is full of many sets of fingerprints. Furthermore, the flare/s could have been handled with gloves.) “However, if an offender is found, they will be charged with a felony.” Perhaps Wojtowicz took so long to write about the smoky event so that she would have time to make up a set of weird embellishments. Arson is a felonious attempt to commit criminal damage to property. I was assured by my CPD source that prints would be processed in a matter of weeks, not "six months to a year." Finally, a tip for Wojtowicz: If you’re going to exaggerate, don’t post videos that prove you’re lying. The wolf is getting tired of you screaming his name. You seek glory for yourself by lying and attempts to intimidate, all the while lending credibility to those who besmirch the rest of us in the Tea Party Movement as "tea baggers." RELATED: Another Threatening Email From Catherina Wojtowicz