• WEATHER ALERT Winter Weather Advisory

San Jose police identify serial arson suspect

The officer who pieced together the clues that led to the arrest of the serial arsonist in San Jose talks to ABC7 News.
January 16, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Police have identified the man who was arrested for a series of early-morning arson fires in San Jose. Patrick William Brennan, a 48-year-old San Jose resident, was arrested Wednesday night.

He is being held on $1 million bail. The arrest ends a very tough week that had residents and businesses in one neighborhood very much on edge. Brennan has a prolific history as a firebug and lives in a small mobile home park on East San Antonio Street in San Jose. Police say they revered evidence form his trailer, but they won't go into detail. They also believe that he acted alone, but they still don't know what his motive was.

Police booked Brennan on two counts of arson.

"At this point, we are extremely certain that we have the individual responsible for all of the arsons that have occurred in the city. We conducted a search warrant on his residence where we retrieved additional evidence showing him to have been the person who committed these crimes," said San Jose Police Dept. Asst. Chief Eddie Garcia.

One fire destroyed a commercial warehouse on East Julian Street, causing an estimated $5 million in damages. Since last week, cops and firefighters have been conducting an exhaustive investigation. They passed out sketches of the firebug, there was security video of a suspicious man pacing near a house which later caught on fire, citizens were vigilant, and in the end, it was a hardworking police sergeant on the midnight beat who identified Brennan. He searched a law enforcement databank on a hunch.

"We have databases that are used frequently by officers," said Garcia. "Arsonists have to register and he was a registered arsonist."

He found Brennan's mug. It looked like the sketch and he lived in the area where the fires were occurring. Police arrested him in his trailer on San Antonio Street. His neighbors say Brennan seemed to be unstable and a loner.

"He was loony. He would pace up and he did everything late at night," said neighbor Rudy Macias.

"He's like a halfway house person. He wouldn't talk to you or nothing. He'd go by and wouldn't say hi," said neighbor Dave Stamp.

The suspect has prior arson arrests. In 1999, he was charged with setting 16 wildfires in the South Bay at a rate of one a week. This is how he appeared in a sketch that police distributed at the time. Compare that to this most recent one.

Authorities say he'll probably be charged later with setting fire to most if not all of 10 other recent fires in this neighborhood near Downtown San Jose. Among them a blaze that swept through a portable building in the back of a church that's right across the railroad tracks from the mobile home park where Brennan lives.

Officer talks about catching San Jose arsonist

The police sergeant who zeroed in on the serial arson suspect tells ABC7 News how he did it.

Investigators are giving all the credit for cracking this case to long time patrol Sgt. Jason Kidwell. He works the midnight shift and worked long hours trying to piece this case together.

"I had a text from a friend who lived Downtown and said, 'I was scared,'" said Kidwell.

Kidwell took what was happening in Downtown San Jose to heart. That's why he spent hours of his own time looking for the serial arsonist. He said they really didn't have any direction to go in or possible suspects until Sunday morning when two more buildings were set on fire.

Kidwell suspected it was the work of the same person and so he got to work entering specifics about the crimes and the man seen in so many surveillance videos. He then cross referenced 10 databases that morning.

"You have to go through each one and plug in the information and then when you get that information, it sort of layers on top of each other and he just was consistently in that area, he fit the profile, had the exact physical description," said Kidwell.

The one who kept topping each list was Brennan. He was already in the county's arson database for setting 16 fires back in 1999.

Kidwell handed his findings over to the investigative unit and detectives watched Brennan for three days before arresting him Wednesday night.

Load Comments