Authorities: East Bay car fire suspect may be responsible for more arsons

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 07:26PM
Authorities say James Bishop III could be responsible for dozens more arsons around Contra Costa County.

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - Contra Costa County authorities laid out a long list of charges against a suspected arsonist on Wednesday. Investigators say the suspect could be responsible for dozens more arsons around the county.

The current charges are connected to 11 car fires from April and May of this year, but investigators say they're looking into at least 30 more car fires, mostly from 2017, that may be connected to one man.

RELATED: Police make arrest after string of suspicious car fires in the East Bay

James Bishop III was arrested over the weekend in Benicia. On Wednesday, the Contra Costa County DA's Office charged him with two counts of arson to an inhabited structure, 12 counts of arson to property, 11 counts of use of an accelerant to set a fire and one count of possession of ammunition.

Fire officials say the car fires shared several common characteristics, like use of an accelerant.

Many of the cars were parked in driveways.

Multiple law enforcement agencies in the area coordinated to make the arrest, ultimately finding Bishop by identifying his car, a Toyota Rav4, on surveillance video near some of the car fire scenes. Bishop was arrested while driving that SUV.

RELATED: Police say Contra Costa County car fires were arson and likely linked

"As these incidents occurred, we became very concerned and accelerated our planning and coordination. We are very relieved to have the suspect in custody," Contra Costa County Fire Captain George Laing said.

Last week, the car fires, which were reported in Martinez, Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Brentwood, picked up at an alarming rate. But according to the fire department, since Bishop's arrest, reports of vehicle fires have slowed, dropping back down to a more typical rate of occurrence.

If you live near one of the car fires and have video or information, you're asked to contact the arson tip line at 1-866-50-ARSON.

Monday, May 8, 2017- First car fire reported in Martinez. The car was found torched in the driveway of a home.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017- A very similar scene, a car was found torched in Walnut Creek, then 15-minutes later another torched car was found in Martinez.
Thursday, May 11, 2017- Two more destroyed cars were found in Brentwood. Only, in this case, the flames spread to a nearby home damaging a garage and the contents inside.
Friday, May 12, 2017- Yet another set of two cars were torched one in Lafayette, the other in Walnut Creek.
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