3 fires ignited, 2 cars stolen during man’s alleged arson, theft, burglary spree

Stock image | St. George News

CEDAR CITY – A 29-year-old man’s alleged arson, theft and burglary spree was halted Wednesday when officers arrested him in a Cedar City neighborhood. The man allegedly set three fires, stole two vehicles and burglarized multiple residences before police apprehended him.

At about 8:45 a.m., Cedar City Police officers were called to Cedar Post Pawn Shop in Cedar City on reports of a fire, which had been discovered and extinguished by a local garbage collector.

Thanks to the quick action of this good samaritan, the damage to the structure was significantly less than if the fire had gone undetected,” a CCPD press release said.

Damage from the fire amounted to less than a thousand dollars, according to initial estimates. The fire was, however, only the first in what is believed to have been a crime spree, according to the press release.

While investigating the fire, CCPD and Cedar City Fire responders were called to a second fire in the same area of town, this time at a Cedar City Cemetery maintenance building. The second fire was reported about 20 minutes after the first.

Damage resulting from the second fire is estimated at several thousand dollars, according to the press release.

Multiple witnesses placed a suspect matching the description of 29-year-old Andrew Michael Russell at or near the scene of each fire during the time the incidents were reported.

Witnesses also placed Russell in or near two different vehicles that were stolen in the areas where the fires were ignited. One of the stolen vehicles was taken from a neighboring business near Cedar Post Pawn Shop, while the other vehicle was stolen from a government building adjacent to the cemetery maintenance building.

“It is believed that after starting the fire at the cemetery maintenance building and stealing the automobile from the neighboring business, that Russell went to a residential neighborhood only blocks from the cemetery,” the press release said. “A resident contacted police and stated that she arrived home only to find smoke coming from the back of her home and a strange vehicle in her driveway.”

A third fire had been set in the woman’s backyard in a metal buck next to a woodpile, according to the press release.

“It was later discovered that this home had also been burglarized,” the press release said.

The third fire caused minimal damage, but witnesses once again placed a suspect matching Russell’s description in the area where the fire was ignited and where one of the stolen vehicles was recovered.

Russell’s alleged crime spree continued, and he was seen trying to get inside other vehicles and homes in the neighborhood, which was in the area of 300 West and 900 North.

“As officers combed the area,” the press release said, “a CCPD officer discovered Russell exiting the backyard of a residence near where the third fire was reported. Officers converged on Russell and took him into custody without incident. It was later found that the home where Russell was captured had also been burglarized.”

Russell’s arrest didn’t halt his mounting list of criminal offenses. After officers apprehended him, the press release said, he attempted to kick one of the arresting officers.

“Additionally, he later attempted to assault medical personnel examining him for a medical clearance,” the release said.

Russell was booked into the Iron County Jail on multiple felony counts. Charges he is now facing include three counts of aggravated arson, two counts of automobile theft, two counts of residential burglary, assault by a prisoner, and assault against a health care provider.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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