Vandalism suspect breaks into California court, starts fire
SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — A 31-year-old man who showed up to a California courthouse over the weekend to inquire about an upcoming hearing in a vandalism case broke into a courtroom and started a fire, authorities said.
The man arrived at the Santa Maria Court Complex Saturday night and said he had received a notice to appear next month, according to Court Executive Officer Darrel Parker.
After learning the location of the courtroom, the suspect ignored the guard’s order to leave and shattered two glass doors to enter the complex, Parker said.
The man then broke a wood door frame and entered the Department 8 courtroom, where he ignited a fire that melted lights in the ceiling, scorched furniture and caused sprinklers to come on, officials said.
Water soaked the courtroom, leaked into an adjacent holding cell, destroyed computers and damaged documents, Parker said. He estimated repairs at the state-owned building could cost a half-million dollars or more and take at least six months to complete.
Eric Spies of Nipomo was arrested and held on $75,000 bail, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately known if Spies has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Details of the prior vandalism case weren’t released.