Investigators are looking into a report of a “Molotov-type cocktail” incendiary device thrown at a family-owned community store in Rome.
Exit 290 at 1900 Maple Ave. is a combination clothing and barber shop, with a few extras included to primarily serve neighbors within walking distance and a mural by artist Xaivier Ringer.
It’s the outside mural, with the faces of Ahmaud Arbery, Brionna Taylor and George Floyd — three Black people whose killings sparked national protests — and the words “Deserving of Justice,” that drew the attack.
The incident happened just hours after former vice president Joe Biden was projected to win the 2020 presidential election.
“Rome Ga. has broken my heart. We had customers, kids in the store,” the owner’s wife, Pascha Burge, wrote on her Facebook page.
Rome Assistant Police Chief Debbie Burnett said an officer sent to the scene Saturday night found a plastic bottle with a burned rag lying near a corner of the mural.
Fire Marshal Mary Catherine Chewning said Sunday that she stands ready to help if she can, but it’s doubtful.
“The Molotov-type cocktail was in a plastic bottle,” she said. “From a scientific point of view, with plastic, any type of fingerprints or DNA has been destroyed.”
The fire was quickly doused and fire department services were declined at the time of the incident, Chewning said. No damage to the building was reported.
“Police are looking into it and we will assist with the incident if called upon. It is still a very serious incident and it is being investigated,” she said.
The owner, Marshall Burge, said there’s still hope that security cameras in the area recorded the vandal, or a witness might come forward.
“I thank God nobody was hurt and the business wasn’t damaged. But fire is nothing to play with,” the Navy veteran trained in fire suppression said.
Burge said he was settling into dinner after a day at his U.S. Postal Service job when one of his barbers called to tell him what happened.
“Fire was everywhere ... He’s about six feet tall and the flames were over his head. He managed to get it out. Then I called the police and my wife and I went over,” Burge said.
It was a scary incident, he said, made more disturbing by the realization that the person had deliberately crafted the device to target the mural.
“Those paintings caused someone to lash out in anger,” he said sadly.
Burge said he believes the contentious rhetoric surrounding the presidential election was the likely trigger.
“But those paintings are not up there to promote anything,” he said, adding that the people depicted could have been his daughter, his brother, his son.
“Those paintings are there to remind people of who they are ... (and) you have to be mindful of what’s happening in the world,” Burge said. “They’re going to stay there. We’re going to keep on doing what we’re doing.”