(Video by Tony Doris)
Douglas Ellington, the former sewage plant worker whom city officials say drove onto the property Monday and set his car on fire, is well known at City Hall, where officials already had stepped up security in light of his bursts through the metal detectors and an escalating email-writing campaign.
Ellington, 52, was escorted from a city commission meeting arrested Feb. 1, after seeking redress for his firing and refusing to leave until he got it.
The incident culminating in Douglas Ellington’s removal brought the meeting to a halt for about 10 minutes and led the mayor and two commissioners to leave the dais as it unfolded. After trying to persuade him to leave the auditorium and discuss his concerns in the hall, two West Palm Beach police officers secured his hands behind his back and walked him out.
That was his third trespassing arrest at City Hall in the space of a year.
Prior to Monday, when another city commission meeting was scheduled to take place at 5 p.m., officials already had ordered additional police protection at the entry to City Hall.
It turned out the precautions were unneeded — Ellington never made it there. Monday morning he drove past the barbed-wire-lined gates of the West Palm Beach sewage plant, got out of his white SUV and set it on fire Monday morning, city officials say.
Ellington watched flames spread over the car, then officials said he told an employee standing nearby that he had placed bombs at both that sewage plant and the Riviera Beach Utility District, where he also worked until being fired a few weeks ago.
Ellington’s claims ignited chaos in the two cities.
Investigators evacuated everyone from the utility district, on Blue Heron Boulevard near Old Dixie Highway, and the East Central Regional Water Reclamation Facility, on Roebuck Road near Florida’s Turnpike, and searched for a bomb.
A device was found at the sewage plant, but it “turned out to be a hoax,” said Elliot Cohen, spokesman for the city of West Palm Beach.
Ellington was arrested shortly after the car fire. No one was hurt in the incident.
The Feb. 1 incident began just after 5 p.m., when Ellington, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, rose to address the commission during the public comment section of the meeting. Ellington said he believed his grandfather was killed at the hands of the government 78 years ago and that now he had been harmed and wanted the mayor’s support, as he had no legal means of redress.
After his three allotted minutes were up, the mayor declined to respond — the mayor and commissioners as a rule don’t respond to public comment at the meetings — and repeatedly asked him to step down from the lectern.
“The time has come for somebody to redress the harm,” Ellington said. “My family has suffered irreversible financial and emotional harm because they fail to recognize the information I brought to them.”
Ellington was calm and subdued but persistent. At one point as officers approached him and asked him to leave, he lifted open the sides of his gray hoodie to show them he was unarmed.
According to Green, Ellington worked at the city’s East Coast Regional Reclamation Facility, a sewage treatment plant near Roebuck Road, and was fired four or five years ago. “The bottom line is, he didn’t want to come back. We were having a disciplinary hearing but he didn’t want to come to it. He got bad legal advice. … He was terminated because he wouldn’t come back to his job. …
“He wants us to do something about it. We’ve met with him quite a few times. We’ve explained it to him.”
Mayor Jeri Muoio, expressing concern that Ellington might be released pending trial, said Monday afternoon that security again has been stepped up. She declined to provide details.
“It’s a sad situation,” the mayor said. “He’s a disturbed person.”