South Seattle man chases, pins down arson suspect

SEATTLE — A neighbor fed up with arsons in his South Seattle neighborhood saw someone trying to set fire to a construction site early Friday morning.

So he chased him down and pinned him until police showed up.

Turns out this is the second time in nearly a week that the construction site has been targeted.

Now neighbors hope this arrest will put an end to an eight-month arson spree.

It is really shocking especially to the people living here who can see just how much damage was done during that first fire.

The neighbor said he didn’t want this to happen here again.

With flames from last weekend fresh in his mind, he sprang into action.

“I got up to go to the bathroom and I saw the back side of the building flickering,” the man said.

He didn’t want to show his face. But he agreed to tell how he happened to nab an arson suspect at 3 o’clock Friday morning.

“I went out front, saw a dude come out of the gate and chased him down, held him down until the cops came,” he said.

He said after watching last weekend’s fire that ravaged a multi-unit building under construction, he wasn’t about to let it happen again.

And he wasn’t surprised to see someone trying to set another fire.

“No, I’ve been waiting for him,” he said.

This neighborhood along Rainier Avenue South has been beset by arsons for the last eight months.

Since late last August, nearly 20 fires have been set here and on nearby Beacon Hill.

“The Rainier Farmer Market, heartbreak, that went down, this, which was a disaster because that’s a dry cleaner site,” said Tina Bechler, as she ticked off the fires just on the four corners of an intersection near South Plum.

“Between Beacon Hill and this neighborhood, we’re in a competition for who has the best arsonist,” she said.

She was told someone had been caught.

“Oh, good,” she exclaimed, “because I’m certain it’s the same person.”

Whoever is responsible has caused millions of dollars in damage and untold heartache.

All of it reached a boiling point for this neighbor willing to risk his own safety to help stop the arsons that have plagued his neighborhood.

“I let him know how I felt about it,” the man said. “I told him my grand-kid lives there. What’s wrong with you?”

He says the suspect didn’t really have much to say.

There is a $10,000 reward to catch the person who set the first fire.

If the suspect now in the King County jail is convicted of the crime, the man who chased him down might get that reward.

No one knows for sure whether the man he nabbed is a suspect in all of the arsons.

On Saturday, the suspected arsonist had his first appearance hearing. A judge set his bail at $15,000 and found probable cause for second-degree arson.

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