Texas Arson Suspect Jumps to Death Off Ramp

June 22, 2011

A 28-year-old suspected serial arsonist glanced back at pursuing police and then jumped about 70 feet to his death from a highway ramp after fire investigators followed him from an apartment complex in southwest Houston where he had burned eight vehicles early Tuesday, authorities said.

The man, whose identity had not been released by the Harris County medical examiner, was declared dead at the scene, said Houston Police spokesman John Cannon.

Houston Fire Department spokesman Patrick Trahan told The Associated Press that investigators believe the man was tied to a string of arsons at homes and apartment complexes. Trahan declined to elaborate.

Investigators last month announced the description of a suspect possibly linked to as many as 30 arsons since 2010. Trahan said the department released a video about a month ago of one fire being set. The person setting that fire appeared to use a distinctive Chevrolet Dually truck, Trahan said.

Fire investigators were watching him Monday night when he set the fire at a southwest Houston apartment complex. He got into a Chevrolet Dually and the investigators followed. When he began speeding they called Houston Police and marked patrol cars picked up the pursuit, authorities said. On the entrance ramp from the West Sam Houston Parkway to U.S. 59, the man slammed on the brakes, got out, walked over to the concrete barrier, looked back at police who were still in their cars and jumped, Cannon said.

Houston Police homicide and internal affairs divisions are investigating it as a “death in custody” because police were present when the man jumped, Cannon said.

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