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Home / arson

Man charged with starting fire in Hemet police station

A 25-year-old man accused of igniting a fire inside the Hemet Police Department, causing damage and culminating in a fight between him and several officers, during which he tried to take one patrolman’s gun, was charged Friday with arson and other offenses.

Bryan Alfaro of Fontana was arrested Wednesday after the alleged vandalism and fire inside the police station at 450 E. Latham Ave.

Along with arson of an inhabited structure, Alfaro is charged with removing a law enforcement officer’s firearm and two counts of resisting arrest, with a sentence-enhancing allegation of perpetrating arson during a state of emergency, tied to the still-active orders issued by the governor at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

Alfaro pleaded not guilty during an arraignment before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark Singerton, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Nov. 8 at the Banning Justice Center.

The defendant is being held on $80,000 bail at the nearby Smith Correctional Facility.

According to Hemet police Lt. Dan Reinbolt, about 3:50 a.m. Wednesday, the defendant entered the police station lobby and allegedly immediately set about vandalizing the property.

Reinbolt alleged that Alfaro used a “sharp object to scratch letters and shapes into the drywall,” after which he piled up loose papers in the space and pushed them through a slot under the safety glass partition at the clerk’s counter, which was closed.

“(He) then lit those papers on fire,” the lieutenant said.

Three officers spotted the activity via a closed-circuit monitor inside the station, and one of them ran to douse the flames, while the other two chased Alfaro, who bolted out of the building, according to Reinbolt.

“When the officers attempted to detain Alfaro … he immediately resisted and began physically fighting the officers,” the police spokesman said. “During the struggle, Alfaro punched one officer in the face and attempted to remove another officer’s handgun from its holster. Alfaro was overpowered and taken into custody.”

The defendant suffered a laceration near his left eye, requiring medical treatment. The officers were not hurt.

The fire was quickly extinguished.

Reinbolt said damage to the police station included punctures to the lobby wall and thermal decomposition of the safety glass on the counter, where Alfaro allegedly started the fire.

He has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.

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