Deputies arrested a 19-year-old man Friday on suspicion of setting fire to a shed at a Santa Maria church in what is being investigated as a hate crime, authorities said.
Gage Rowdy Tuttle was booked on suspicion of arson, vandalism and hate crimes, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a written statement. No hometown was listed for the suspect.
Reports of a structure fire brought deputies and firefighters to the Winepress Church, 896 Cambria Ave. They found a shed behind the church in flames.
Deputies also noticed a man, later identified as Tuttle, sitting near the smoldering structure, officials said.
“As deputies spoke with the subject about the fire, they learned that the man actually started the fire,” the statement said. “During the course of their investigation, deputies determined that the act of starting the fire was directed against the church.”
Firefighters managed to keep the fire contained to a the storage shed. An investigation was ongoing to determine exactly how the fire was set.
Bail for Tuttle was set at $50,000 pending his initial court appearance.