OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A Concord man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a felony charge of arson causing great bodily injury for allegedly starting a 20-acre vegetation fire in the East Bay Hills last Wednesday and asked for a speedy preliminary hearing.
Alfredo Bautista, 24, who was dressed in a blue jail uniform during his brief appearance in Alameda County Superior Court, is also been charged with attempted second-degree robbery, assault with force like to produce great bodily injury and unlawfully driving or taking a vehicle in connection with a road-rage incident on Grizzly Peak Boulevard in the Oakland hills several hours before the fire, which broke out at about 1:05 p.m. Wednesday.
The fire started on UC Berkeley land. Last Thursday, campus police said they were investigating the incident as a possible arson.
Six of Bautista’s family members attended his hearing and afterward they huddled in a side room to discuss his case with his attorney, Alameda County Associate Deputy Public Defender Roberto Meraz.
Before his hearing Bautista discussed his case with Meraz in a small private room using the services of a Spanish interpreter.
University of California at Berkeley police Officer Ryan Miyamoto wrote in a probable cause statement that he found a cigarette lighter in Bautista’s pocket when he detained him near two Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory buildings at about 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
Miyamoto said Bautista “later made a voluntary admission that he was the person who started the fire on Grizzly Peak near sign post 14.”
Bautista also “admitted to starting eight fires in the area using the cigarette lighter he had in his possession,” Miyamoto wrote.
Miyamoto noted that it took firefighters several days to extinguish the blaze, as it wasn’t deemed to be completely detained until 10 a.m. on Monday.
He also noted that a firefighter was injured while battling the blaze and had to be treated for his injuries at a local hospital.
Oakland police Officer Matthew Jung wrote in a separate but related probable cause statement that Bautista allegedly brandished a rifle at motorists during the road rage incident.
Jung said Bautista allegedly was involved in a collision near Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Fish Ranch Road at about 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
Jung wrote that the victims later told police that a suspect, later identified as Bautista, approached their vehicle armed with a rifle so they fled in their car out of fear for their safety.
Jung said Bautista followed the victims in his car and began ramming his car into their car multiple times until the victims’ car collided into a parked vehicle.
Jung said the victims told police that Bautista continued to point his firearm at them before fleeing the scene.
Officers later conducted a field lineup in which the victims identified Bautista as the suspect who had pointed his firearm at them and purposely rammed his car into their car multiple times.
Bautista, who was arraigned on Monday afternoon, refused to waive his right to a speedy preliminary hearing so Judge Gordon Baranco scheduled that hearing to be held on August 21.
The purpose of the preliminary hearing will be to determine if there’s enough evidence against Bautista to have him ordered to stand trial.
Bautista is scheduled to return to court for a pretrial hearing on Aug. 15, six days before his preliminary hearing.
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