Police arrested a local transient in connection with the latest in a series of at least nine fires they say he started at businesses in Covina and Azusa over the past two weeks.
Jose Javier Salgado, 39, was taken into custody shortly after the most recent fire, which ignited about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday behind a Walmart at Azusa Avenue and Arrow Highway, according to the Covina Police Department.
The blaze scorched wooden pallets, cardboard and a forklift, Sgt. David Rodriguez said in a written statement.
“The structure was evacuated but not affected by the fire,” the sergeant said. No injuries were reported, and the value was yet to be assessed Thursday.
Around the same time, two other small fires were reported, police said. One was at a mini mall in the 400 block of Arrow Highway, and the other was at nearby Hollenbeck Park at 1250 N. Hollenbeck Ave. Both were put out before significant damage was done.
“Covina PD Officers contacted Salgado in the area of Azusa Ave and Arrow Hwy and he admitted to starting the fire at Walmart,” Rodriguez said. ” He was subsequently placed on a psychiatric hold.”
Salgado was also arrested on April 4 in connection with a string of six alleged arsons, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Those fires ignited at the Guitar center, the Covina Bowl, Walmart, Ross and Loan Max in Covina, as well as another location in Azusa, according to Rodriguez.
Salgado was taken for psychiatric evaluation following the April 4 arrest, officials said. He was subsequently released from custody the same day with a felony citation, records show.
No criminal case related to either recent arrest was listed in Los Angeles County Superior Court records as of Thursday afternoon.
Prior convictions include violating a restraining order in 2016, as well as DUI and drug possession in 2009.
Covina Police Chief John Curley pointed at the alleged crimes as an example of a failure of California’s legal system.
“10 arson fires in less than 2 weeks and unfortunately in California, ‘serial arson’ is not considered ‘VIOLENT’….just like human trafficking of a child, rape by intoxication, and many others. Disgraceful to our community…” he posted on social media.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Covina police Detective K. Hustley at 626-384-5616. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.