Two fires, which occurred in different locations and on separate dates, have been blamed for the loss of critical financial records belonging to civil rights activist Al Sharpton. Both fires occurred when Sharpton was running for office.
The first fire occurred in 1997 when Sharpton was running for mayor. The fire reportedly started in a hair and nail salon located in the same building as Sharpton’s campaign headquarters. The fire destroyed computers, files and campaign records.
Sharpton’s spokesperson at the time told Newsday, “we have lost our entire Manhattan operation,” the National Review reports. However, an insider source stated that Sharpton’s office was almost empty at the time of the fire and the damage was not extensive. It is reported that Sharpton did not disclose important tax and campaign-related documents, but instead blamed the fire for destroying the documents.
The second fire occurred in 2003 when Sharpton planned to run for president of the United States. The fire caused damage of Sharpton’s National Action Network. The cause of this fire was deemed accidental and reportedly started by heat from extension cords. However, some investigators involved at the time believed the fire seemed “suspicious," noting the briefness of the investigative report, which was only six pages long and accompanied by 38 photos.
Supervising Fire Marshal James Kelty, who responded to the fire, said: “Big fires and fires involving prominent people are generally much more exhaustive. Thirty-eight photos are a drop in the bucket, especially given Sharpton’s notoriety and given the fact that he was running for U.S. president,” reported the National Review.
According to the investigation report, a maintenance worker named J. D. Livingston, who was employed by Sharpton, was present when the fire started. Livingston was interviewed by fire officials with his attorney, Michael Hardy, present. Hardy was also Sharpton’s long-time lawyer at the time.
"I could probably count on my hand — and have fingers left over — how many times I have talked to a superintendent or maintenance worker and had an attorney there," Kelty said. "It’s just extremely unusual."
Local residents also believed the 2003 fire was suspicious. ''I just have the feeling that something more is going on,'' John Barber, 62, told the New York Times. ''I don't believe the excuse they gave. Even if it was a power cord, someone could have hooked up the cord to set the place on fire.''
Bystander Christian Hill agreed: ''Personally, I find the timing too strange. One day he says he wants to be president and the next day his place burns? Get real.''