UC Berkeley arson suspect a 34-year-old PhD grad living in parents’ million-dollar home

An investigation of arson attacks at the University of California, Berkeley has led to the arrest of a 34-year-old man who is reportedly a student living in his parents’ million-dollar home.

Arson attacks including the firebombing of a UC Berkeley Police Department vehicle during anti-Israel protests on campus have been linked to Casey Robert Goonan, a PhD student who reportedly called the U.S. a “fascist hellhole.”

According to a CalFire news release, Goonan was arrested Monday in connection with four acts of arson at Berkeley in June and was booked into Alameda County jail where he is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The incidents were investigated by Cal Fire’s Office of the State Fire Marshal Arson and Bomb Unit, the UC Berkeley Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI,” the newspaper noted.

(Video Credit: ABC7)

Goonan’s attorney, Jeff Wozniak, confirmed that Goonan’s parents’ $1.1 million home in Pleasant Hill was raided on Monday by multiple law enforcement agencies at about 10 a.m. He called the arrest “a political investigation” and said no charges had been filed against his client.

“It is an investigation focused on Mr. Goonan’s political beliefs in a free Palestine and against the ongoing genocide in Gaza,” Wozniak said in a statement. “The search warrant specifically sought ‘documents related to the conflict between Israel and Palestine,’ illustrating that this is an investigation to place blame on Mr. Goonan because of his opposition to genocide and demand for a free Palestine.”

Goonan reportedly received a doctorate from Northwestern University in African-American studies, according to a report from The San Francisco Standard which noted that “No social media profiles, including LinkedIn, could be found for Goonan.”

He completed his undergraduate degree at UC Riverside, the outlet reported, citing a social media post written by Goonan’s mother in 2022 that purportedly read, “Casey got his PhD! Onto job apps.”

The Standard reported that Goonan was described as an “abolitionist currently living and working in Chicago” in one 2019 bio and he wrote in online articles that the United States is a “god-awful fascist hell hole” where social injustices are “concealed under the blinders of white supremacist American reason.”

Goonan reportedly wrote another article entitled, “Defining Social Reality in a Revolutionary Way” in which he praised the Black Panther Party for providing a “blueprint” for the “scientific, premeditated, and necessarily methodical artistry of social revolution.”

Between June 1 and June 16, several arson attacks were carried out on the Berkeley campus, with pro-Palestinian posts taking credit online.

A pro-Palestine group using the social media handle “Marilyn’s Daughters” allegedly “looted a university supply building of ‘thousands of dollars,’ firebombed a police car, carried out ‘experimental burning of dry grass hills on the interior of campus,’ torched a building on the campus perimeter, and set fire to a construction site,” The Stanard reported.

“This was done to further retaliate against the UCPD for attacking students at UCSC and UCLA,” read one post while another declared, “EVERY SINGLE BUILDING ON THE UC BERKELEY CAMPUS DESERVES TO BE INCINERATED.”

“If charges are filed, Mr. Goonan’s legal team will aggressively fight the charges. It is my hope, however, that [District Attorney Pamela Price] does not engage in this political persecution, does not file charges and that Mr. Goonan is released from jail,” his attorney stated.

Online posts by the Escalate Network urged support for “someone” who was “accused of using improvised devices to start fires and damage property in retaliation for police brutality against Gaza solidarity encampments.”

The 34-year-old pleaded not guilty to felony vandalism and is set to appear Friday in San Francisco for the next hearing after his scheduled appearance Thursday in Alameda County court to be arraigned on arson charges. Goonan is also facing felony vandalism charges in an unrelated case from 2023.

Social media users reacted to the arrest and description of the man suspected of the arsons at UC Berkeley.

 

Frieda Powers

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