A second man, accused of setting fires to a van, pallets, a dumpster and a fence at locations at Taylor Street and Broadway, was charged after both fled from police last week. One man was caught after an officer searched the area for suspicious persons and found them sitting near a vacant church.
Their method of arson was kerosene from Walmart and a lighter to commit the offense, court documents said.
Aaron Chason, 20, of the 3200 block of Wayne Trace, was charged Monday with arson, institutional criminal mischief and misdemeanor resisting law enforcement.
Thursday, his alleged accomplice, Sebastian Smith, 19, no address given, was charged with arson and institutional criminal mischief.
On June 18, two delivery vans in the parking lot at Mad Anthony Brewing Co. at Broadway and Taylor Street were destroyed when flames from the first van spread to the second. One van was worth more than $58,000, the second about $43,000, court documents said.
Russell McCurdy, lead fire investigator for the Fort Wayne Fire Department and a sworn police officer, said he was not able to contact anyone from NVR Ink Tattoo & Body Piercing on Broadway, behind which a dumpster and fence were set on fire.
Fort Wayne officer Yoder, no first name given, chased down the two men from the scene of the fire, after he started a search for suspicious persons, court documents said. He went south on Thompson Street and headed toward Scott Avenue where previous fires had been set. He saw two people sitting near a vacant church, court documents said.
They were facing each other, and Yoder saw a flame of some sort, court documents said. He got out of his police car and started to chase them through the neighborhood, yelling for the two to stop. At first, both were running north on Broadway.
Chason attempted to get rid of his backpack and was able to toss it, but it was retrieved by another officer when Yoder arrested him in an alley off Creighton Avenue, court documents said. During the arrest, Chason told Yoder he had a heart condition and he ran because he had a cigarette on him, court documents said.
Tobacco is an illegal substance for people under 21.
Chason had a keychain with a lighter on his person.
McCurdy caught up with Chason and Smith on Wednesday, and both confessed on video and in writing that they set a dumpster and van on fire, court documents said.
Smith said Chason stole the kerosene they used from Walmart; Chason said he bought it, court documents said.
Smith added that he was 2 inches away from the van when they set it on fire. The why? “Targets of opportunity,” according to Chason, court documents said.
Chason is being held at the Allen County Jail in lieu of $12,500 bail, a jail spokesman said. Smith was released on his own recognizance.