Suspected Serial Arsonist Caught Driving in Residential Benicia

Suspected Serial Arsonist Caught Driving in Residential Benicia

CONCORD – A man in custody since May 13 is suspected of setting fire to at least seven vehicles and an inhabited building, and possibly 30 other instances of arson still under investigation.

Police initially withheld the suspect’s identity, but he was identified as 36-year-old James Bishop III, of Pittsburg, after the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office formally filed charges.

Bishop is charged with multiple counts of arson, use of an accelerant, and arson to an inhabited structure. He’s being held at the Martinez Detention Facility in lieu of $3.2 million bail.

The accused arsonist was picked up last Saturday shortly before 1 a.m. in a residential neighborhood of Benicia without incident. He was transported to a police station in Concord, where he was interviewed.

Bishop was caught driving a 1996 Toyota Rav4, which was identified as the suspect’s getaway vehicle, with video surveillance evidence gathered by investigators from homes and businesses located close to vehicle fires throughout Contra Costa County.

Vehicles were damaged or destroyed in fires in Bay Point, Brentwood, Lafayette, Martinez and Walnut Creek, and some nearby buildings sustained damage caused by the vehicle fires.

A task force of several agencies was formed to investigate an uptick in fires beginning in April, but investigators soon began reviewing vehicle fires that occurred earlier this year as well.

The arrest of a suspect is the culmination of an investigation that included the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Concord police and Lafayette police.

Residents who live near recent car fires who have information, especially those with security camera images of the suspect’s Toyota Rav4, can contact the Arson Tip Line at 866-502-7766.

Categories: Contra Costa
Tags: arson

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