EDMONDS — About an hour before sunrise on New Year’s Day, a man tried to use a cigarette, a butane lighter and lighter fluid to ignite two gas pump nozzles at a Shell station in Mount Vernon.
City police found James Paul Doggett around 6:20 a.m. in the 800 block of W Division, wrapped in what looked to be a curtain and pushing a mountain bike that belonged to a customer in the Shell station, according to charges filed in Skagit County District Court.
The man, 62, called himself “God” and “talked about being brothers in arms with the Police,” an officer wrote. Police booked Doggett into the Skagit County Jail on the morning of Jan. 1, for investigation of attempted arson in the first degree and misdemeanor theft.
At the time, Mount Vernon officers did not know that days earlier, Edmonds police had also spoken with Doggett, about another arson that destroyed a mini mart more than 50 miles south, in Snohomish County.
Two people escaped the fire unharmed at the Firdale Market at 4:40 a.m. Dec. 23. The market, in a small shopping complex in the 9600 block of Firdale Avenue, was considered a total loss, Edmonds police Sgt. Josh McClure said. No other businesses there were damaged. Police haven’t said exactly how the fire started, but South County Fire determined it was intentionally set and estimated the damage at $325,000.
Police spoke with Doggett near the Edmonds market both before and after that fire. He was not arrested at the time.
Edmonds detectives released a bulletin Tuesday morning asking the public to be on the lookout for Doggett — 5-foot-9, about 155 pounds, with a white beard, a baseball cap and “a Christmas tree skirt over dark jeans” — unaware he had been booked into the Skagit County Jail days earlier. The bulletin also noted Doggett was “known to have been in north Snohomish County since the arson.”
On New Year’s Day, just west of the Skagit River, Doggett reportedly told an officer he took a bus north but missed his stop in Smokey Point. He didn’t mention the earlier fire, or at least it’s not mentioned in the police report. Doggett also stated he was trying to get back to Issaquah, and “he seemed to be possibly under the influence of something as he was not making sense in the things he was saying,” police reports note.
In the time between the two fires, Doggett had been cited for a misdemeanor theft in Issaquah on Dec. 30.
The officer reported he didn’t smell any alcohol on the suspect. Doggett handed over a Social Security card with another man’s name on it. He gave a birth date that didn’t match the card and eventually gave officers his true name, court papers say.
Police checked the security video at the Shell station. Footage reportedly showed Doggett stealing a $4.99 bottle of lighter fluid, trying to steal fake money taped on a divider near the cashier and then attempting to set pumps on fire with no success. He also tried to ignite a sign posted near the pumps, but that didn’t light, either.
Police could find no visible damage to the pumps or the sign but tested the butane lighter and found it “fully operational,” with a flame when activated.
About an hour after sending out a bulletin Tuesday, Edmonds police confirmed that Doggett was behind bars in the neighboring county.
Civil and domestic violence records show Doggett has ties to the Edmonds area dating to the 1990s. It appears he went years without a serious run-in with police in the state, until he was cited three times in a span of two weeks in December.
A week before the Edmonds fire, Lynnwood police cited Doggett for theft and a drug-related misdemeanor. A warrant was issued in that case, because Doggett didn’t show up to his municipal court date Monday. (He was in jail.)
His current address was listed in court papers as “transient.”
Herald writer Eric Stevick contributed to this story.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.