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WPD: Man Sets Fire to Neighbor’s Tree, Arrested for Arson

The Warwick Police Department is located at 99 Veterans Memorial Drive.
The Warwick Police Department is located at 99 Veterans Memorial Drive.
The Warwick Police Department is located at 99 Veterans Memorial Drive.

Editor’s note: The arrestee’s name and identifying information has been removed from this story following a finding of “no information signed” in the case, wherein not enough evidence was found to bring the charges to a trial. 

Warwick, RI – Warwick Police responded to a 911 hangup call from Trafalga East Apartments April 30 at 1:57 a.m. made by a woman who said a man in her back yard was trying to burn a tree, ultimately arresting the man for arson, assault and resisting arrest.

Warwick Officer Rose Michel, Warwick Fire Rescue and an East Greenwich Officer arrived at the scene at roughly the same time. Michel spoke with the woman making the report, who said she’d heard a noise coming from her patio, according to Michel’s report.

The woman said she looked outside her rear window, noticing “religious material” on her porch, and an unknown liquid spread in an arch pattern there as well. The woman said she heard a torch-like sound, then saw her neighbor standing behind a tree in her yard with flames lit from an item he held in one hand, Michel reported.

The woman and man made eye contact, she said, and she immediately called 911. When the officers and firefighters arrived, she noticed the what appeared to be the same liquid as was on the patio outside her front door, on the carpet she said.

Firefighters tested the liquid and determined it was not flammable, according to Michel’s report.

Michel and the East Greenwich officer knocked on the neighbor’s door, but she had to knock several times and identify herself as a Warwick Police Officer several times before the man answered the door, according to the report.

When he did come to the door, the man refused to give his name or date of birth. When asked about the liquid on the carpet outside his neighbor’s front door, the man looked at the carpet and said he didn’t see anything.

As Michel spoke with the man, Officer Daniel Dimaio arrived. Michel noted that the man had black residue on his fingers, and the man attempted to slam the door on the officers, catching Michel’s right foot in the door.

Michel and the East Greenwich officer pushed the door back open, and the neighbor retreated inside. The three officers struggled with him, and Michel warned him of he didn’t stop struggling, she would use her taser on him, according to her report.

The man continued to struggle, saying, “get out of my apartment,” and “you have no f***ing right to be here.” Michel warned him to stop struggling again, but he continued resisting, and Michel fired the device for five seconds into the man’s back, where the prongs caught in his sweater but didn’t make contact with his skin.

A fourth officer arrived to assist, and together they were able to handcuff the neighbor. Two handcuffs were required due to the man’s size, according to Michel’s report.

The officers inspected the tree the woman had pointed out, finding black fire-marked residue on it. There was also a religious newspaper on the ground near where the liquid had been poured.

Firefighters determined the liquid on the ground, which they were not able to identify, was not flammable, and ensured the tree was safe.

Michel charged the man with fifth-degree arson, simple assault against Michel, and resisting arrest. No lighter fluid was found in his apartment, but he did have a lighter on his person when arrested, according to Dimaio’s report.

Dimaio and another officer transported the man to Kent County Memorial Hospital for a mental health evaluation, according to Dimaio’s report.

The man was scheduled for a competency hearing on May 11 in Third District Court, and a court screening on the charges June 8 in Third District Court.


Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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