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4 Hemet code enforcement trucks set on fire

March 24, 2010 12:21:42 AM PDT
An investigation is under way in Hemet after four city code enforcement trucks were set on fire Tuesday night.The trucks were all parked in the City Hall parking lot, just two blocks from the police department, when the incident happened at about 11:30 p.m.

When police arrived, they spotted a man running from the parking lot. They caught up with the man, detained him and questioned him. They released him after surveillance video confirmed he did not start the fires. Authorities did not say whether surveillance video caught anyone else at the scene when the fire started.

"The parking lot itself is sealed off as a crime scene. We really need the daylight to investigate the cause of the fires, the exact method of starting the fires and check for all physical evidence," said Hemet Police Chief Richard L. Dana.

The Hemet Police Department said the incident was likely connected to the threats and recent booby-trap attacks against the department.

Authorities received a 911 call last Friday afternoon stating that a police car would be blown up in the Hemet-San Jacinto area within 48 hours.

It's been a tense time for the Hemet Police Department in recent weeks. First, there was a natural-gas pipe that was shoved through a hole drilled into the roof of the gang enforcement unit's headquarters. A flammable vapor filled the area, but an officer smelled it before anyone got hurt.

Then there was a device that was attached to a sliding security gate at the police department. When an officer opened it, it triggered the device, nearly shooting the officer.

In the last incident, an explosive device was attached to unmarked car of an officer who went into a convenience store.

"I'm concerned for officers' safety, for their ability to get up in the morning and come to work and do their job," Dana said.

A $200,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest for the attacks on the Hemet Police Department. No one has been arrested.

By 7 a.m., employees were allowed into City Hall, but the parking lot remained closed as authorities continue to investigate.