'08 race worker held in damage to Colorado Democratic HQ
One of two people suspected of shattering 11 windows Tuesday morning at the state Democratic Party headquarters has an arrest record and a history of helping a Democratic political candidate, public records show.
Police said that about 2:20 a.m., 24-year-old Maurice Schwenkler, now in custody, and an at-large accomplice took a hammer to the picture windows displaying posters touting President Barack Obama and his health care reform efforts.
Early Tuesday, Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Waak said the damage to her building in Denver's art district was a consequence of "an effort on the other side to stir up hate." She tempered her statement after Schwenkler's political history was revealed.
"What I've been saying is there is a lot of rhetoric out there from both sides of the spectrum," Waak said. "That's what's been disturbing to me. People are saying a lot of things not appropriate for civil discourse."
For weeks, people on both sides of the health care debate have rallied across the country.
Schwenkler is charged with criminal mischief and is to make his first appearance in Denver County Court today.
He is accused of doing an estimated $11,000 in damage and could face a felony conviction.
On the last day of the 2008 Republican National Convention, he was charged with misdemeanor unlawful assembly in St. Paul, Minn.
Court records provided through the St. Paul Pioneer Press show he was jailed about 2 a.m.
Schwenkler received $500 in November 2008 to walk door-to-door in support of Democrat Mollie Cullom, who lost her race to Republican state Rep. David Balmer of Centennial.
Waak, who was not involved with the group that paid Schwenkler, said she's never heard of the suspect and pointed out that just because he canvassed "doesn't mean he's a good Democrat."
Schwenkler was one of dozens of paid canvassers bankrolled by the Colorado Citizens' Coalition, a political 527 committee
In those disclosures, Schwenkler's address is listed as Derailer Bicycle Cooperative, a free community bicycle collective that operates just around the corner from the Democratic headquarters. Multiple volunteers at the collective declined to discuss Schwenkler, though they said he was affiliated with the group.
Balmer said he suspects the vandalism might have been aimed at making the GOP look bad.
"This sounds like the type of Democratic tactic from the left fringe trying to make Republicans look mean-spirited," Balmer said. "In this case, it blew up in their face. He was caught red-handed."
Schwenkler allegedly tried to conceal his identity while committing the crime by wearing a shirt over his face, a hooded sweat shirt and latex gloves, according to police descriptions.
When a Denver police officer on patrol spotted two people smashing windows, the suspects fled on bicycles.
Schwenkler was arrested after a short foot pursuit, but the other suspect sped away, police Detective Vicki Ferrari said.
She declined to release further details.
Staff writers Joey Bunch and Felisa Cardona contributed to this report. Jessica Fender: 303-954-1244 or firstname.lastname@example.org