Fresno man arrested after setting girlfriend's apartment on fire, police say

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Police: Fresno man arrested after setting girlfriend's apartment on fire
A man is under arrest for setting an East Central Fresno apartment on fire.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A man is under arrest for setting an apartment on fire. Fresno police say the man dumped lighter fluid over his own head, barricaded himself inside the apartment, then punched out the windows. It happened Monday morning at Ashlan and Willow avenues in East Central Fresno.

Investigators say the suspect will be facing felony arson charges. Police say some domestic problems started the disturbance. Much of the apartment was destroyed when firefighters say the suspect set multiple small fires inside the corner unit.

Video - Warning Strong Language

A passerby took video of Fresno police rushing in after the barricaded suspect opened the door. Smoke billowed out of a burning apartment as several police officers dashed in and dragged the 44-year-old out.

"As officers contacted him, he put lighter fluid on his head, over his body. He had newspapers sticking out of his pockets, so he was threatening to light himself on fire," said Lt. Joe Gomez with the Fresno Police Department.

Officers say the suspect's girlfriend left the apartment just after 10 a.m. to report his bizarre behavior. Officers say the couple was having some type of relationship problems and she asked him to leave, but he refused.

Firefighters had to stand by and watch the flames get bigger, since officers had to wait until they determined the suspect didn't have any other weapons. By the time fire crews were cleared to go in, the fire was shooting out of the apartment window and multiple fires were set inside the apartment. Once the flames were put out, the questioning began.

"So our investigators are on scene. We're going to be investigating the fire scene. We will also be heading to the hospital, getting statements from the suspect. We're running the K9 dog through there to see if there was any ignitable liquids utilized in the fire," said Pete Martinez with the Fresno Fire Department.


Police say the suspect is very distraught. About the time the fire began, officers say he was rummaging around inside and banging on doors and windows. After he busted out the window, he was cut and bleeding. But even that didn't cause him to voluntarily give up. Officers say the scene was very chaotic and in a short time the suspect did a lot of damage.

"I was way down south when I was coming up here, but I could hear the updates on the radio: 'he is lighting this window on fire, he is lighting this window on fire.' So just by looking at it, it's going to be significant," said Gomez.

In addition to medical treatment, the suspect will also receive a mental evaluation. Investigators are also trying to figure out whether there may have been any other contributing factors, like drug or alcohol use.