FARGO — A Lisbon, N.D., man accused of taking an ax to a Republican U.S. senator’s office windows in Fargo last week was “very vocal” about his left-leaning political views, according to court records.
Thomas Alexander Starks, 30, is under federal criminal investigation, accused of smashing two glass windows and an intercom system next to the door of Sen. John Hoeven’s office, U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley told Forum News Service on Tuesday, Dec. 29. The federal prosecutor for North Dakota declined to say what federal charges Starks could face, if any.
Wrigley said his office plans to “aggressively investigate” the incident “to its logical conclusion,” and is working to determine the motivation for the vandalism.
Starks has been charged in Cass County with a Class C felony of criminal mischief in connection to the Dec. 21 incident at 123 Broadway N. Video shows a man wearing a black mask, dark sweater and jeans walk up a set of stairs to Hoeven’s door around 9 a.m. at Suite 201, according to an incident report. He rang the intercom but walked away after several seconds, the court document said.
The man, shown in video made public by the Fargo Police Department, returned around 9:04 a.m. with what appears to be an ax. He then smashes the intercom and windows before walking away, the report said.
No one was in the office when Starks allegedly smashed the windows, according to Fargo police. Court documents said an employee came into the office shortly after 9 a.m. and after the vandalism took place.
A property manager estimated damages totaled about $3,800, the incident report said. A motive in the case remains unclear.
Police identified Starks as a suspect after reviewing other video footage and receiving several tips, including from Starks’ coworkers at Bobcat in Gwinner, N.D., court documents said. One colleague said Starks was “politically open and motivated,” left-leaning and “very active in protests,” according to police.
“(Starks) is a race car with no steering wheel,” the employee said in court documents. “He goes at everything 100%”
Another coworker said they believed Starks’ family was “hit hard financially” by the coronavirus pandemic, and that the “government wasn’t doing anything to help,” the report said.
One said they worried Starks would “behave irrationally,” according to court documents.
Public voting records show Starks has registered as a Republican, Democrat and independent in Florida between 2008 and 2014. North Dakota does not require residents to register with a political party to vote in a primary election.
Vine, an online database of jail records, indicated Starks was booked Thursday into the Cass County Jail. He appeared Monday, Dec. 28, in Cass County District Court, where bail was set at $5,000.
He was released from custody after posting bond.
His court-appointed attorney, Nicole Bredahl, declined to comment and said she would advise Starks to do the same. Attempts by Forum News Service to reach Starks were unsuccessful.
Bobcat did not return a request for comment on Tuesday. Hoeven’s office said it didn’t have much information to share on the incident.
“Law enforcement has informed us that they intend to bring charges, likely both federal and state,” Hoeven’s spokesperson Alex Finken said in an email. “Also, we again want to express our appreciation for law enforcement’s good work and their concern for the safety of our team.”
Wrigley said he doesn’t care about political views when it comes to investigating criminal acts. He noted the U.S. Attorney’s office pursued charges against a Fargo man three years ago who threatened to shoot former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in the head.
“Politics stops at violence. Politics stops at intimidation,” Wrigley said. “It stops at a bright line when threats, intimidation and destruction are being utilized.”