New York State Police are investigating the third confirmed case of arson on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation within the past year.
On Wednesday morning, State Troopers confirmed that an accelerant was used in an early Monday morning blaze that destroyed part of a home recently moved in four pieces to tribal lands after being donated last month. The fire was called in to police at 4:58 a.m. on Monday, and when fire officials arrived on the scene they found one section of the house, which was still on wheels from when it had been transported to the property, fully engulfed in flames, said Southampton Fire Department 2nd Assistant Chief Chris Brenner.
A second piece of the house, which was sitting nearby, sustained minor flame damage but was still standing.
According to records at the Southampton Village Building Department, the house was donated earlier this year by a family on First Neck Lane who wanted to build a new home on their property, but also wanted to save the old structure. Although granted a demolition permit by Southampton Village, the owner instead opted to give the house to the tribe for restoration, and it was transported in the four pieces to its current location. Although the house was originally located in the Southampton Village historic district, records indicate that it held no historical significance.
No one was in the house at the time of the blaze, and the fire was brought under control in approximately 20 minutes, Mr. Brenner said. New York State Police and the Southampton Volunteer Ambulance were also at the scene to assist.
The blaze is the third confirmed case of arson on the reservation this year. In November, fire destroyed the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s Gaming Authority trailer—which held all of the contracts for the tribe and the Gaming Authority relating to a possible casino—with an unknown accelerant. The contents of the trailer were already under investigation, and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been seen removing files and contracts from the trailer a few months earlier. No arrests have been made in the investigation, which is being handled by the FBI.
In December, arson investigators were back on the reservation when a Montauk Highway smoke shop sustained fire damage in an overnight incident. According to police, the owners of the Shinnecock Smoke Shop first noticed fire damage to the exterior of the building before calling police. The damage was minor, but State Police determined that it was intentional. Although police confirmed there was a “person of interest” in the case, they did not have enough evidence to make an arrest.
This week, an investigator with the State Police said it was too early to tell if the fire was related to either of the prior incidents, saying the investigation is still in its preliminary stages. He confirmed that chemical samples have been sent for testing. It was also confirmed that although the FBI did report to the scene on Monday, State Police will continue the investigation.
In a statement from Tribal Trustees sent to members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, obtained by The Press earlier this week via a tribe source, they condemned the actions of the unknown culprit, saying the continued arson attacks put the entire tribe at risk. The letter claims that a “fire bomb” was used in the house, and that a second “fire bomb” was unsuccessfully fired into the second portion of the house.
In the letter, the Tribal Trustees go on to ask residents to come forward with any information, offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest.
“This act of arson is unconscionable and put the entire community in jeopardy,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident, and the arson attack on the Gaming Authority trailer is still under investigation by the FBI. We urge all tribal members to keep your ears open for any information regarding this act of senseless destruction.”