Arsonist targeting Central Florida law enforcement officers

Marion County Sheriff's deputies' cars torched


OCALA, Fla. – Marion County sheriff's investigators are looking for a serial arsonist who is targeting police officers and sheriff's deputies near Ocala.


[PICS: Arsonist targets officers]

Detectives say the first fire was reported at a vacant house on the 6000 block of SW 108 Street in the Whispering Pines subdivision in June.

Local 6 has obtained home video that shows flames shooting from the abandoned house. Marion County investigators said the fire was the first in a string of arsons in the neighborhood that has stumped detectives.

Neighbors told Local 6 the fire erupted in the middle of the night, and they didn't see who started it.

On Sept. 29, a car was set on fire in someone's driveway, and one week later, a car belonging to a Marion County Sheriff's deputy was torched in his front yard.

Approximately a week afterward, a marked patrol car from the Marion County Sheriff's Office was set on fire in the driveway of a deputy's home as well, as his personal car, followed by an Ocala police cruiser being set on fire one week after that.

All of these crimes happened in the same subdivision, a spokesman said.

"Sometimes it was a neighbor who would hear the breaking of glass when the car was fully engulfed," said Lt. Brian Dotten of the Marion County Sheriff's Office. "That loud noise would awaken neighbors and deputies themselves."

"This could be a person who is unhappy with law enforcement," said Sheriff Chris Blair. "They start setting fires, and then figure they can start burning cars."

No one has been injured in any of these attacks.

Detectives are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this case. Call Marion County Sheriff's Office if you have something to share.

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