Officers stopped four suspects as they were about to firebomb a home on Drakeley Avenue near Shaffer Road Tuesday night.
Atwater Police said the suspects in this attempted arson had a different method of operation than whoever is responsible for the Merced fires. But officers are still sharing information as both investigations continue.
Chief Richard Hawthorne said, "Our street crimes officers were working with the Merced County Gang Task Force, and through developing intelligence they were able to put themselves at the right place at the right time."
Chief Richard Hawthorne said the officers found three teenagers trying to light homemade firebombs made out of gasoline filled glass bottles. They also caught a 21-year-old, who they said was the get-away driver, in a vehicle nearby. Hawthorne said they believe the attempted arson was gang-related, but not related to the three homes that were set on fire in Merced last Saturday.
"The Merced Police Department still has been forwarded the information in our investigation, and they will take a look at it, but it doesn't seem to be the same individuals," said Chief Hawthorne.
Neighbors we spoke with said they're not surprised to learn about the attempted arson because this street has become plagued by frequent gang activity.
Atwater Resident Roy McWaters said, "I'm concerned because every time you turn around, you've got the thugs who go through here with a boom, boom, boom."
McWaters said gang members also lit a nearby home on fire while a woman was sleeping inside. He said she escaped when her dogs started barking, but he's worried his home could also be in danger.
"I went out and cut all the weeds down the side of the house so if they did burn it, it wouldn't burn my house. That's ridiculous, to have to do that," said McWaters.
The four suspects in the attempted arson are facing multiple felony charges, and if convicted they could serve time in state prison.