LYNNWOOD — A mentally ill man was arrested for investigation of sparking an arson Wednesday on the top floor of a Lynnwood condominium building.
Hours after the suspect was in custody, a second fire broke out in the same attic early Thursday — causing far more damage and displacing 10 people on 200th Street SW, according to South County Fire.
The cause of the first fire was determined to be arson. The second fire was still being investigated.
People escaped the building unharmed in both incidents.
Police reports documented a series of erratic behavior by the suspect starting earlier this week.
A woman called 911 Tuesday afternoon saying her schizophrenic son, 37, attacked her at his home and shaved part of her head with a razor, according to the reports filed in Everett District Court.
The man fled. He showed up at the police station around 9 a.m. Wednesday, acting strangely. But he drove off in a Ford C-Max before police could catch him. Officers chased the car down 200th Street SW. At one point, the driver looked at officers and waved, court papers say. Police pursued the Ford to southbound I-5 and struck the car to make it spin out. However, the driver regained control and sped south. Lynnwood police ended the chase.
Around 12:35 p.m. Wednesday, neighbors saw smoke on the roof of the unit where the man lived. Investigators determined someone lit cardboard in the attic, causing a slow burn that spread to the rafters.
The fire was confined to the man’s condominium.
Lynnwood police were alerted around 4:30 p.m. that Lake Forest Park police had found the man’s car and involuntarily committed the suspect for a mental health hold at Swedish Edmonds hospital.
The man admitted to Lynnwood police he started the fire in the attic, according to the court papers. He reportedly said he tried to put it out, but he couldn’t. He tried to call for help, too, but his cell phone wouldn’t work, he reported to police. Officers arrested him for investigation of first-degree arson, attempting to elude law enforcement and domestic violence assault in the fourth degree.
Firefighters were called back to the same attic space above the man’s condo around 6 a.m. Thursday. Flames had eaten through the roof, causing major damage to the man’s home on the third floor, said Leslie Hynes, spokeswoman for South County Fire.
In the second fire, one firefighter suffered a minor injury from falling debris.
Water damaged two units below.
All six units in the building were not habitable as of Thursday.
Fire investigators returned to the scene to search for the cause of the second fire.
Meanwhile, jail staff decided the suspect would not be able to attend his bail hearing Thursday afternoon.
Everett District Court Judge Anthony Howard found probable cause to hold him behind bars. Howard tentatively set bail at $750,000.
The man’s criminal record stretches to the mid-1990s: assaults, attempting to elude police, indecent exposure and more than 20 misdemeanors.
In his most recent serious brush with the law, in June 2017, two women reported a burglary at a power substation off 228th Street SW. An officer reportedly found the man staggering along a trail with bloodied arms and a torn shirt. He ignored police commands to stop. The officer used pepper spray, but it had little to no effect.
The suspect lunged at the officer, tore off his badge, and fought with him, according to felony charges earlier filed this year. Then he rushed at the women, pulling one of them by the hair.
A second officer arrived moments later, battering the man with a baton. At different points in the struggle, both officers considered using deadly force, court papers say. Only when a third officer arrived were they able to subdue the man. Prosecutors charged him in April with two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer.
A judge released him from jail in June, on a promise to show up to court. His next hearing in the assault case was set for October.
According to reports in the arson case, the Lynnwood man’s mother told police her son had been spending time in the attic, and that the dosage of his mental health medication had been lowered recently.
The mother had gone to the unit in the first place because she’d called him, and could tell he was having a mental episode.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.