A vandalism suspect in California recently broke into a courtroom and started a fire after receiving a notice about his upcoming hearing — ironically, for a case about previous allegations of vandalism.
According to Court Executive Officer Darrel Parker, the 31-year-old man received a notice to show up to court a month later for a criminal case regarding vandalism. Instead, he showed up at the Santa Maria Court Complex in and went on a rampage.
Ignoring the security guard’s orders to leave, the man smashed two glass doors leading to a courtroom.
“He pulled the doors on Department 8 so hard that he broke the wood frames on the top of the doors and broke into the courtroom,” Parker told the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
The suspect then proceeded to light a fire on the defense counsel’s chair that spread to the table and carpet, melted ceiling lights and burned furniture. The blaze also triggered sprinklers that destroyed computers and audiovisual systems and ruined documents.
According to Parker, the courtroom was flooded in water up to 2 inches deep. “The sprinklers put out the fire, but the sprinklers put out so much water that the courtroom’s a loss,” he said.
The water flooded into adjacent holding cells but did not reach court clerk offices or the judge’s chamber.
Santa Maria police and fire responded to the court facility to put out the fire, and the man, Eric Spies of Nipomo, was later arrested and held on $75,000 bail.
Abatement crews arrived the following morning to rip out the furniture and carpet and ventilate the building.Water had leaked into the file storage area in the basement, so the court also hired contractors to salvage documents to be digitally preserved before mold could set in. Parker estimated that the repairs would cost the state a half-million dollars or more and months to complete.
“It seems unfair to the taxpayers to have to deal with this,” he said. “I think that’s more upsetting to me than anything.”