OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A suspect has been arrested in one of the nine arson fires that have damaged or destroyed housing projects under construction in Oakland and other East Bay cities since 2012, authorities announced late Wednesday night.
Oakland police were assisted by agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive in making the arrest. No other details were immediately available.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Dustin Bellinger, 45, who also uses the name Faheem Bey, was arrested around 7 p.m. Tuesday in Oakland.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged him with one felony count of maliciously damaging or destroying a building by means of fire or an explosive. If convicted, Bellinger could face 5-to-20 years in prison.
Bellinger was arrested in an arson fire that damaged the under construction Hollis Oak apartments in the early hours of Oct. 23rd.
The fire erupted within hours of a massive 5-alarm blaze that raced through the three-story, under-construction Oakland townhouse complex.
Authorities did not say if Bellinger was a suspect in the arson fire that ripped through Oakland 2 Icehouse.
The massive townhouse construction project that stretched the length of an entire block, consisted of six buildings, 126 townhomes and was scheduled to open in December.
Oakland Fire Chief Darin White said his agency got several 911 calls reporting the Icehouse blaze around 1:59 a.m. Arriving firefighters encountered heavy smoke, towering flames and a blizzard of flying embers. The response was quickly elevated from two alarms to five alarms.
The blaze was the latest in series of suspicious fires that have gutted large housing projects under construction in the East Bay dating back to 2012. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf did not mince words when she talked with reporters about the cause of Tuesday’s fire.
“We do not know whether this fire was caused by an arsonist but we do know that arsonists have been trying to burn down housing projects in Oakland,” she said. “We are calling on everyone to be vigilant, to look out for this needed construction of housing.”
As was the case with several of the suspicious fires, ATF agents were sent to the scene to search for evidence of arson.