Donald Shockey ran out of his home Saturday morning to find his car in flames.
He watched in disbelief as the 4 a.m. blaze torched his 2014 Chevrolet Cruze so intensely that firefighters had to cut open the engine to make sure it was extinguished.
He had 13 days left on the lease.
Miami Fire Rescue investigators are weeks away from a conclusion on what caused the fire, but when firefighters asked the 59-year-old urban planner what happened that night, he had an immediate answer. It was retaliation, he said, for his efforts to persuade code enforcement to crack down on the homes with junk cars, peeling paint and mountains of trash in his Design District neighborhood.
Life as the most vocal member of the neighborhood beautification committee, the Buena Vista Stakeholders, made Shockey an unpopular man. Ever since members of the group started pushing for more stringent code enforcement in the neighborhood they’ve experienced blowback — someone even threatened to start a petition to tell Shockey he was unwelcome.
The “Iraq-style” firebombing of his car, as Shockey put it, wasn’t even the first attack on his vehicle. Last week, Shockey said, someone smashed the front passenger window.
“The violations aren’t such that it puts someone out of business or wrecks their life,” he said. “I focus on the most blatant things.”
Shockey originally emailed code enforcement for every “meaningful” violation he saw, including a neighbor Shockey said paved over his yard and ran a valet parking business, but now he focuses on his own street, a block away from the Institute for Contemporary Art.
“I got tired of looking at that stuff,” he said.
But the car fire was a shocking escalation, Shockey said. Especially when the Stakeholders group hadn’t reported anyone since January.
“Throw eggs at my house. Break a window. But explode my car? That’s extreme.”
Miami Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Ignatius Carroll said investigators are looking into what started the blaze, including the possibility of an electrical fire or, as Shockey claims, arson.
“All of those things will be looked at. We’re going to take the accusation and put it together with any physical findings from the vehicle,” Carroll said. “We’re just glad no one got hurt.”