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Man set Fla. squad car on fire, then launched into series of confessions

The man had set the patrol SUV ablaze between his visits to a local bar, but ‘felt bad’ and returned to the scene of the crime to confess


Photo/Hernando County Sheriff’s Office

By Mark Price
The Charlotte Observer

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — The burning of a patrol car became a soul-cleansing moment in Florida, when the culprit returned to the crime scene and began confessing to a litany of shortcomings, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

This included admitting to being a “professional arsonist” and claiming to have a penchant for doing “stupid things,” the sheriff’s office said in a Dec. 8 news release.

The strange confessional happened Dec. 7 in a Spring Hill apartment complex, where deputies arrived around 5 p.m. to find a flaming patrol SUV, officials said. Spring Hill is about 50 miles north of Tampa.

“As detectives initially began their investigation, a male approached the crime scene and stated he was responsible for setting the fire,” officials said.

“During an interview ... (he) told detectives he was ‘intoxicated’ and when he gets ‘drunk’ he does ‘stupid things.’”

The 48-year-old suspect added that “he was a ‘professional arsonist’ and has been arrested and convicted for similar offenses,” the sheriff’s office said. A records check confirmed he was arrested for arson in 2012, officials said.

The patrol SUV had been set ablaze around 4:30 p.m., between his visits to a local bar, according to the release.

“While walking, (he) noticed the patrol vehicle and decided he’d like to set it on fire,” officials said.

“He went to a nearby dumpster and grabbed a bag of garbage. (He) then placed the bag under the patrol vehicle and used a lighter to set it ablaze.”

It was after walking back to the bar that the suspect “said he ‘felt bad’ and returned to the scene to confess,” officials said.

During the interview, he noted the SUV was chosen as a matter of convenience rather than an effort to target law enforcement, officials said. A privately owned vehicle parked next to the SUV also sustained damage in the fire, officials said.

The suspect was arrested and charged with two counts of arson, and jail records show he will be held for extradition if released on $50,000 bond.

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