Man accused of setting fires near new RV parking lot

Sender Abraham Gonzale, 26, is suspected in a series of arsons.

This story was originally published in Friday morning’s Daily Post. To stay on top of the local news, pick up a copy of the Post in the mornings at 1,000 mid-Peninsula locations.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

A homeless man has been arrested after he set several fires around East Palo Alto including outside the new RV park on Bay Road.

Sender Abraham Gonzalez, 26, was arrested Tuesday, a prosecutor said.

He’s suspected of setting a series of fires Saturday on the bike trail between Pulgas Avenue and Bay Road that broke out around 1 a.m., endangering homes and RVs in the area, according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Flames shot up to 20 feet high. Four fires were set along the bike trail, mostly made up of piles of clothes.

Security camera footage captured the image of a man, later identified as Gonzalez, on the bike trail.

Around 4 a.m. on Saturday, a man with the same clothes and bike as the man on the security footage reappeared at the scene of the fire, Wagstaffe said. Police identified Gonzalez and arrested him. He had four lighters, a can of butane and a can of oil with him, the DA said.

Gonzalez had set at least three other fires in East Palo Alto on June 7, July 21 and Sept. 24.

On June 7 at 8:30 a.m., a man was spotted setting fires in the Home Depot parking lot. When police approached Gonzalez, he told them he was upset he had lost his wallet and started the fires to make himself feel better, according to Wagstaffe. Police then took Gonzalez to a hospital for a psychiatric 5150 hold, where he was released after 72 hours.

On July 21, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District responded to a fire at the 101-University Avenue off-ramp. A firefighter saw a man playing with a lighter and when the firefighter asked Gonzalez a question, he biked away, Wagstaffe said.

On Sept. 24 at 4:40 a.m., a resident called East Palo Alto police to his home and told them Gonzalez was setting fires. Police searched Gonzalez because he was on probation, and found he had a butane canister and multiple lighters. Later the same day, police spotted a burning pile of clothes and nearby was Gonzalez. They again booked him on a 5150 psychiatric hold, Wagstaffe said.

After the fire on Saturday, police decided to book Gonzalez into jail.
Gonzalez was charged yesterday with eight counts of arson. He is in jail in lieu of $200,000 bail and will be back in court on April 29.

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