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San Rafael Police Department

San Rafael Police Department

Public Health: Shelter in Place Order

For Immediate Release

Author: Sergeant Justin Graham #494
Date: May 07, 2020 5:20 PM
Case Number: SR20-03152

Series of Fires Investigated as Arson - SUSPECT ARRESTED

San Rafael, CA – In the afternoon of Thursday, May 7th, 2020, James Thomas Duffy, a 42-year-old San Rafael resident, was arrested on several counts of arson, which included setting fire to a dwelling.

This morning the San Rafael Police Department and the San Rafael Fire Department responded to a series of fires in the Canal Neighborhood of San Rafael that were determined to be set on purpose.  SRPD and SRFD investigated the case along with arson investigators from the Marin County Fire Investigation Team.

Starting at 5:17 AM, SRPD received the first 911 that reported a fire in the area of Hoag Street and Canal Street.  Police officers and firefighters arrived to find a dumpster on fire that had also spread to a nearby vehicle.  No one was injured.

At 5:24 AM, a 911 call was received reporting a dumpster fire in the unit block of Mill Street.  Officers and firefighters arrived and the fire was extinguished.  The fire was isolated to just the dumpster.

At 5:28 AM, a 911 call was received reporting a fire in the unit block of Canal Street.  The fire was a small debris fire and was extinguished.

At 5:31 AM, a 911 call was received reporting a small debris fire in the area of Canal Street and Larkspur Street.

At 5:45 AM, Officers responded to a request for a welfare check of Duffy at the apartment complex in the area of Medway Road and Canal Street.  A reporting party stated that they had heard a loud bang, followed by the smell of smoke, and then saw Duffy leave his apartment.  Officers arrived on the scene and found that Duffy’s front door was warm to the touch and observed smoke coming from the roofline.  Firefighters responded and were able to isolate and extinguish the fire in the single unit.  No one was found inside and no one was injured.  The apartment complex had been evacuated as a precaution while fire crews worked quickly.  Tenants were allowed back into their respective apartments once the fire was under control and mop-up was completed.  No one was displaced.

At 5:49 AM, the last of the series of 911 calls was received reporting a dumpster fire near a supermarket in the 300 block of Bellam Boulevard.  That fire was quickly extinguished and was localized to just the dumpster.

SRPD and SRFD established a command post in the Canal Neighborhood to search for Duffy.  Arson investigators from the Marin County Fire Investigations Team also responded to assist with this case.  The Marin County Sheriff’s Office UAV (drone) Unit was also utilized to help with the search for Duffy. 

SRPD broadcast a countywide “All Points Bulletin” to law enforcement agencies as well as posting Duffy’s photograph and information to social media platforms.  Several tips were received stating that Duffy had been seen the day prior as well as later in the day. 

At 11:15 AM, Central Marin Police Authority located Duffy in the 600 block of Magnolia Avenue in Larkspur.  Duffy was detained and San Rafael Police Officers responded.  Duffy was arrested and taken into custody.

Through the course of the investigation, it was determined that Duffy had set six separate fires, including one to his own apartment.  Duffy was booked into the Marin County Jail for five counts of felony arson and one count of felony arson to an inhabited dwelling.  The case was forwarded to the Marin County District Attorney’s Office. 

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call San Rafael Police at (415) 485-3000. Tips can also be made online at http://www.srpd.org/tips.

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Posted: May 07, 2020 5:25 PDT by Sergeant Justin Graham #494

Updated: May 07, 2020 5:28 PDT by Justin Graham

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