Police arrest suspected serial arsonist accused of lighting dumpsters on fire next to apartment building

On Sunday, Tacoma police arrested a man they are calling a serial arsonist, saying he is responsible for setting at least five fires in thirty minutes, one damaging an apartment.

According to Tacoma Police, officers responded to a call around 6:30 p.m. for a dumpster fire in the 200 block of S. G St.

Officers said this was the third dumpster fire reported in the area that hour. The dumpsters were pushed directly along the side of an apartment building.

Witnesses gave a description of a man who they reported seeing start the fire using lighter fluid.

Court documents say police saw the suspect hiding, wrapped in a blanket, but they did not have enough information to make an arrest.

The documents say police went back to get more details, but by the time they had sufficient information, the suspect was gone. 

While searching for the suspect, two more dumpster fires were reported in the 400 block of St. Helens. Both dumpsters were pushed up against a construction site. Witnesses gave a similar description to the person who started the first fire.

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The suspect 34-year-old, Eric Kibathi, was taken into custody just before 7:00 p.m. He was booked into jail for investigation of first-degree arson and two counts of second-degree arson.

Police said the suspect is a serial arsonist.

According to court documents:  

"The reports indicate that the defendant has multiple prior arrests for arson in the downtown area. One report states, "The fact that his fires have not killed anybody is more luck at this point than anything that law enforcement or TFD (Tacoma Fire Department) have been able to do. Whenever Kibathi gets out of jail he goes on arson sprees and lights multiple dumpsters and other items on fire."

Kibathi appeared in front of a judge on Monday.

According to court documents, he is held without bail while waiting for a mental evaluation.

Tacoma's crime numbers show the city is seeing a massive increase in arsons. According to the data, there is a 100% increase in this year's numbers compared to the same time period as last year. 

Numbers show there have been 108 arsons reported in the city between Jan 1 and April 24 of 2022.