Man who allegedly set Biden hay bale sign on fire was Trump supporter, police report says

This Oct.

9 photo provided by Megan Whilden shows a stack of hay bales that were painted to show support for the Democratic presidential ticket in Dalton. The man who allegedly set fire to the display was a Trump supporter, according to a police report.Megan Whilden/Associated Press

The Dalton arson fire that drew national attention was started by a supporter of Republican President Donald Trump who told police he was drunk and grieving the death of his son when he allegedly set fire to the hay bale display endorsing Democrat Joe Biden, according to a police report.

Lonnie P. Durfee is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Central Berkshire District Court in Pittsfield on a single count of burning property, a felony, for allegedly torching the hay bale political sign created by farmer Dicken Crane and farmhands on Crane’s property.

Shortly after the installation alongside Route 9 in the small Berkshire County town was completed Friday, the white hay bales painted with Biden’s name were set afire.



About two hours after the fire destroyed the hay bales, Dalton and State Police spoke to Durfee as he sat outside his parents’ residence on Home Terrace, where a Biden sign on a neighbor’s front lawn had also been set afire and an American flag was placed atop the charred remains.

Durfee allegedly twice admitted to police he was the person responsible for the hay bale fire – once on the night of the fire while he was drunk and shared his sadness about his son’s death, and the next day when he was sober and interviewed by State Police in the Dalton police station, according to the report.

He also allegedly admitted to burning the Biden political sign on his neighbor’s lawn.

“He’s distraught over the death of his son Jacob” and had “been drinking heavily to cope with the loss,” Dalton police wrote in the report, which was filed in court. “He is frustrated with the Democratic and political left agenda and believes they are ruining the country.”

“He admitted to setting hay bales on fire and did so because he disagrees with the political stance represented,” police wrote. “He used old oil and gasoline to set the fire.”



Durfee’s 24-year-old son was killed in a motorcycle crash in New Jersey recently, police said.

During the investigation that led them to Durfee, police interviewed several Dalton residents who recounted what happened at a dinner party at a neighbor’s home several weeks ago

Political discussions were banned by the hosts to assure a peaceful evening, police wrote. Durfee ignored that rule and eventually got thrown out after he argued loudly with one of the hosts about the president.

“Lonnie is a vocal supporter of President Trump and proceeded to make a huge scene during the dinner related to politics,” a neighbor told police. One of the hosts “got into a confrontation with Lonnie and asked him to leave.”

An off-duty police officer also allegedly saw Durfee driving away from an area gas station after filling up two gas tanks, one of which fell out of the back of a yellow pickup truck and was abandoned by the driver, the report stated.

Durfee is the registered owner of a yellow pickup truck, police said.

A bartender at a bar called Paddy’s gave police a written statement reporting that Durfee told fellow customers his plan was to burn a “Biden/Harris sign” down.

During the Friday night interview with police, Durfee was “clearly intoxicated at the time of our discussion. … At one point, he stopped the conversation to show photographs of his son growing up. … He never requested to stop speaking with us. …

Mr. Durfee agreed to go inside his parents house and go to bed.”



Durfee also agreed – and kept his promise – to show up at the Dalton police station Saturday morning, police wrote.

Over the weekend, the owner of Holiday Brook Farm and others created a new hay bale installation, but the new one does not endorse Biden or any other political candidate.

The new collection of stacked bales of hay, painted red and blue on top of a white covering, now reads “love,” “unity,” and “respect.”

Crane told the Globe he chose the new message to reduce “the divisiveness around the election. It’s a message that we really hope this country is about.

If we respect unity and love, it makes the names on the political message less important.”


John R.

Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com.

Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.

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