A man arrested in an arson investigation faces five charges after threatening a woman and two children before setting fire to a Fort Worth home, officials said.
Police said they believe Courtney Eugene Smith, 39, endangered the children and woman by intentionally starting three fires after what began as a domestic disturbance over the weekend.
Smith allegedly took the phone away from a woman who tried to call 911, Fort Worth Fire Captain David Jones said at a news conference Monday. He said the relationship between Jones and the woman was deteriorating.
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The Fort Worth Fire Department responded to a vehicle fire in the 3700 block of Hulen Park Circle around 4:30 a.m. Saturday. When authorities arrived at the scene, a residential building was also on fire. Responders quickly extinguished both fires.
Officials determined that three fires were set intentionally. Police said they believe Smith was aware that children were inside the residence and intentionally started the fires in locations that prevented them from quickly escaping.
"The fact that the suspect felt the need to set fire to the front and back door in an attempt to block the paths of egress, that's particularly egregious and causes us a lot of concern," Jones said.
After further investigation, police said they identified the suspect and issued five felony probable cause arrest warrants. Some of Smith's criminal record included animal cruelty, assaulting a family member and making a terroristic threat to a family member.
There were specific threats made to the family that made them fear for their lives, Jones said. It was considered retaliation and those facts were presented to the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office. There were three counts for the three members in the household.
"We don't have a lot of arson cases like this," Assistant Chief Raymond Hill said. "For them to come our and execute quickly and diligently do that we're very proud of them for that."
Police said they arrested Smith early Sunday morning and transported him to the Arlington City Jail, where he is held on $195,000 bond.
"Fire used as a weapon or threat or intimidation will not be tolerated in the city of Fort Worth," Hill said. "We will aggresively investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law."
He also thanked the Tarrant County prosecutors office and Fort Worth police for their assistance.
Anyone with additional information about the incident can contact Fort Worth Fire Department Arson Investigators at 817-392-6850.