In his time off from KFC, he would drive out of the city to military recruiter stations. He’d get there before the officers and watch them as they went into work. Sometimes he would film them from his car and later masturbate to the videos. If they left any military-issued cars unlocked in the lot, he’d come back at night and collect whatever pieces of regalia they left behind until he’d assembled a complete uniform. Then he would order the matching leather shoes to go with it. At home he’d dress as a Marine and putter around the apartment, playing the role for no audience but himself. He never wore the uniform outside.
I kinda like the old recruiter station in Silver Springs, Md because in the back of the office was a bathroom window where I could actually see inside the place, he wrote. That place was distroyed by fire and they move a few block down across the street from a fire station. Sometimes, a recruiter or recruiters would leave the company cars unlocked at night and I come back and sit inside and take a lot of stuff (papers, ID cards, uniforms and wear the jackets home).…The new station had a good view also—for I use to park on the parking lot during business hours and watch the traffic in and out—including video taping the recruiters going + coming. And then I drive across the street to the Fire Station and tape them also—mostly close-up (Not fat or out of shape workers, but built muscular and nice feet) this you can’t understand because these are some of the phantasy.
He set fire to recruiter stations as far away as Richmond. His fantasies encompassed all kinds of civil servants who wore uniforms: Police officers, firefighters, even bus drivers. He reported false fires on his block just to bring the engines out. He sometimes lingered at the scenes of fires he’d set himself, capturing footage with his camera. He became addicted to his homemade pornography.
Sweatt felt deeply conflicted over cops. He was physically attracted to them but resented their authority. That feeling may have stemmed from the minor brushes he’d had with them in the past. (In 1984, he was arrested for stealing some $2,500 in jewelry out of the home of a man he’d picked up at a party, according to court records. After he agreed to complete a court-ordered diversion program, the government dropped its case). Or maybe he just never forgot the D.C. officers who mocked his soft voice when he took their orders at KFC.
Whatever it was that he loved and despised in cops, he saw it in their squad cars. Physical objects themselves had a way of stirring his feelings, sometimes more than people. The sight of a cruiser could make him feel powerless and slighted, so he torched them around town.
I burned police cruisers parked at the station and some that were at their residence. To me they seem to have power because of their badge + gun and I felt powerful thru fire when they lost their vehicles. Some of the burned cars would remain at the spot for many days and I’d drive back that night and just stare and smell the smoke. One of the station was on Penn. Ave + Minnesota Ave. SE; one of the police residence was Wheeler Rd + Miss. Ave. SE. Some people use guns, knives, etc. as weapons—I use fire as a source of weapon—Not afraid of fire at all; for it is my friend and I miss it. You mentioned small + safe fires. Well, that’s correct about the small leading to big fires and I just needed more satisfaction and excitement…
I must have masturbated a hundred times a day!! That’s all I wanted to do was make tapes and come home and watched them.
He was aroused by the snug blue uniforms and caps of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. He would hang around the city bus depots and watch the drivers as they started their routes. At the Metro yard on Bladensburg Road NE, just past the railroad overpass, he could park on the side street beside the buses and shoot video of the workers. Many of the drivers parked their personal cars across the street in the parking lot outside a liquor store. Sweatt would arrive there before 7 a.m., when the operators were reporting for duty, and after they’d made their way to the buses on foot he would set his devices beneath their car undercarriages and light them. He would have made up his mind the previous day which cars he’d be torching. The sexier the car, the better for his fantasy.
It was a 2004 Mustang (white) 5.0 that had been on the list of cars to burn for a long time. That morning it parked right beside me and the operater look at me, shut his door and walked away, (not knowing that’s the last time he’d drive that pretty sorta hot rod like ride. I must have waited about 20 minutes for the lot to fill up with other cars so that no one would come back to mess up the plan. His car was destroyed along another sexy cars parked beside it as well as the top of the wall of the liquor store.
That Mustang belonged to Wade Powell, a Metro instructor who still works out of the bus depot. “I know four other guys who had their cars burned,” Powell says of his Metro colleagues. Gulzar Singh, the owner of the liquor store, Syd’s Drive-In, says he often arrived to work only to find the smoldering carcasses of automobiles in his parking lot. “Sometimes when we opened up in the morning, the fire department would already be here,” Singh says.
Dave Jamieson has won the Livingston Award for "Letters from an Arsonist."