Friday, August 20, 2010

Fiery crime spree leaves cop cars in flames -- Warren County, MO

Two men are jailed for a crime spree that police say involved setting fire to police cars, then sending a burning truck onto railroad tracks.

Corey M. Puetz, 21, and Xavier D. Washington, 19, both of Warrenton, are each charged with first-degree burglary, stealing a motor vehicle and stealing over $500. Bond is set at $100,000.

Warren County Sheriff Kevin Harrison said the crime spree lasted from last Thursday morning until Saturday. No one was injured in any of the blazes.

"I honestly think these kids wanted to create chaos," Harrison said Tuesday morning. "They wanted to light fires. They wanted to see vehicles explode."

Harrison gave the following account of the crime spree:

At about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, the duo went to the parking lot behind the courthouse in Warrenton. They put a firework into the fuel filler tube of a Warren County sheriff's patrol car and lit it. But the fire didn't catch, and the pair ran off. They went to a nearby home and stole a can of gasoline. Then, they put a gas-soaked rag into the fuel tank of a patrol car and lit it.

They ran to a nearby park and watched as firefighters put out the fire, Harrison said. The car was gutted. It was worth about $8,000, the sheriff said, and contained several thousand dollars' worth of police equipment.

After that, the pair broke into two homes and stole a truck. Hours later, at about 11:45 p.m. Thursday, they put gasoline into a weed-killer pressure sprayer and sprayed gas onto three cars owned by the Warrenton Police Department. They lit the gas and watched as it burned out. They came back with more gasoline and charcoal lighter fluid. They started another fire on the police cars. An officer saw the fire and used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. Only one police car was damaged.

A half-hour later, the men set the stolen truck on fire and drove it onto railroad tracks near the Highway 47 overpass in Warrenton.

A citizen's tip on Saturday eventually led police investigators to Puetz and Washington.

State and federal prosecutors are considering additional charges dealing with the arson to the patrol cars and the truck.

Harrison, the sheriff, said neither Puetz nor Washington has had any prior serious dealings with police here. He said Puetz has been picked up before for minor offenses, such as traffic violations and supplying alcohol to minors. Washington used to live in California and has no prior arrest record, Harrison said.

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