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Authorities Were Warned About the Suspected California Arsonist for 3 Years

"Why the hell didn't they respond? I reported this over and over again."

|||Chris Rusanowsky/ZUMA Press/NewscomChris Rusanowsky/ZUMA Press/NewscomAs California suffers one of the worst fire seasons in the state's history, officials have arrested a man they suspect of starting some of the blazes. Now one local firefighter says much of the destruction could have been avoided had law enforcement not ignored years of complaints.

The suspected arsonist is 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark, whose cabin in Holy Jim Canyon is the only structure in the area to remained untouched by the raging fires. Police believe he sent volunteer fire chief Mike Milligan an email a week before the fire began, threatening that "this place will burn." He faces charges for arson, felony threat to terrorize, and resisting arrest.

If Clark is guilty, a Washington Post interview with Milligan suggests that police could have prevented the arson. For the past three years, Milligan says, he has been warning the local sheriff's office and U.S. Forest Service about Clark, repeatedly telling them, "You have to do something or he's going to kill someone or burn this place down." Milligan reports that Clark sent him several texts promising that the area was "going to burn just like we planned." Milligan say that he attempted to alert the authorities but did not receive a response. He criticized, "Why the hell didn't they respond? I reported this over and over again."

Clark was involuntarily committed in 1996 for mental illness, the Post reports. In addition to the Holy Jim fire, he is accused of starting a fire in Trabuco Canyon. California firefighters are currently working to contain at least 18 fires in the state.

Clark's case has some similarities to that of the accused Parkland high school shooter, Nikolas Cruz. The Sun Sentinel has posted a timeline of the complaints about Cruz's behavior that different authorities—the Broward Sheriff's Office, the Florida Department of Children and Families, even the Federal Bureau of Investigation—received before the massacre. In one instance, a blogger in Mississippi warned the FBI that an account named "nikolas cruz" wrote on his YouTube page that he was going to be "a professional school shooter."

Photo Credit: Chris Rusanowsky/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    Here goes the 1st Amendment because an arsonist was 'dangerous' and authorities should have done something 3 years prior.

    Mind-crimes are what lefties love.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    In one instance, a blogger in Mississippi warned the FBI that an account named "nikolas cruz" wrote on his YouTube page that he was going to be "a professional school shooter."

    That's just crazy talk. No one gets paid to be a lone wolf school shooter. You need a certain level of social skills to join a well funded organization that does this on a professional level like these guys did. That's why, this morning, when someone asked if worked where we were standing, I told him that I'm just a stubborn guy who parks his car there no matter how many people they kill.

  • Hank Phillips||

    SOMETHING is creating a demand for whackos to shoot people in gun-free zones. And government schools do teach that the initiation of force is necessary and good, right?

  • Ken Shultz||

    This is so outrageous.

    I'm outraged.

  • croaker||

    I really hope they have more on this guy than some emails.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    A. Harm is what counts. You can't arrest people for pre-crime.

    B. Threats can rise to the level of harm under certain very narrow conditions. Is someone aiming a gun at you? Is their fist in motion towards your nose? Did the sucker just poor gasoline all over the ground and pull a lighter out of his pocket? Did a known arsonist fill a can with gasoline and drive into the woods? My definition, IANAL, is "imminently unavoidable", meaning if I don't act NOW, I will be harmed. But because that predicts the future, it is fallible.

    C. How many other people made similar arson threats? How many other people did this fire chief report over and over? How reliable a reporter did those contacts think he was?

    D. What is lacking is accountability. Where is the retribution for false accusations? How much of his own skin was that fire chief willing to put into his accusations about potential arson? In particular, if he has been making these allegations for three years and the arson has only now struck (yet to be proved), it would seem he has been making false accusations for 2.9 years. How does he propose holding himself accountable for that record?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Here is an example of how I would expect accountability to work.

    This chief has been saying for three years that the alleged arsonist was going to burn down the forest. Let's suppose he saw this guy filling a can a the gas station and heading down a forest road. Does he have any reason to forcibly stop him? Suppose he does. How can he show beyond a reasonable doubt that he was correct? If the guy lives anywhere near, or has equipment down that road (chain saw, truck, lawn mower), how can he prove those were not legit uses for the gasoline -- were their tanks full and did he know that? And what would the chief be willing to pay as retribution if he could not prove his story of a threat? $1000? Ten days in jail? Put some skin in the game!

    So suppose the chief is not willing to bet $1000 or ten days in jail. Instead of follows the guy. Is he willing to put in the actual work required to follow and collect better evidence? How much work does he think is worth saving the forest from fire? Ten days following the guy around? If he was really really sure that a forest fire was a certainty, ten days following the arson is a slam dunk and he should expect fine rewards from his fellow citizens. If I was convinced my neighbor was going to start a fire, or shoot up a school -- say I had overheard him and friends makings uch plans -- I would think nothing of following him around.

  • Sigivald||

    It's not a "false accusation" to say "so and so made this communication to me that looks like a threat to start a fire", even if person so and so doesn't start a fire for three years.

    It's a true accusation that so and so made a communication they really did provably make.

    Might wanna rethink the wording there.

  • Rossami||

    It's not a "false accusation" if and only if the person later starts a fire. Any action taken prior to that time would be based on a then-false accusation.

    Which is Scarecrow's point. If the fire never happens (and before the event, you can not know), then any arrest or restriction or even intrusive investigation will be based upon a false accusation. By the logic that we want to hold police accountable when they ignore an accusation that turns out to be true, we ought to equally hold accusers accountable when they turn out to be wrong.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Yeah. It's like last Sunday when I grabbed that lady's cane in the church parking lot. She was about to hit a guy I know with it.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    So, do documented threats that precede an actual crime make that crime worse?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Next up: global warming causes arson.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Haha. I thought that I was the only person to catch that tie-in.

    Trump was making the point that California is dumping water over their dams and could have used the water to fight fires or at least set up ponds for water to be used on fires. The fire chief called that ridiculous but said these fires are being caused by global warming.

    it turns out it was an arsonist who started the fire but I doubt the media will revisit it.

  • Ron||

    most fires are started by arsonist yet everyone wants to blame global warming for the fires. The facts dispute the science

  • Oli||

    Global warming contributes to the intensity of the fires, of course. Fires pretty rarely start out of thin air, just because it's hot outside.

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, how about all the democrats? There have been warnings for years that they will ruin the country, perhaps the world, yet they still get to run for office. What we need is reasonable candidate controls.

    "Clark was involuntarily committed in 1996 for mental illness" - WaPo
    What was the result of the commitment? Was he truly wacko, or just got sent up by a troll? Was he kept past the minimum, or turned loose as fast as possible because he wasn't really crazy?

  • Oli||

    I agree, even with the most basic candidate controls, the US wouldn't be on her knees right now, getting barebacked by Putin.

  • Homple||

    What, if anything, would the inhabitants of Libertopia do in response to Milligan's information?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    We'd argue back and forth about the charge of an electron, and then realize we were talking about the wrong guy.

  • Dizzle||

    Should be the same thing as suspected terrorists. Literally send them a certified letter from whatever govt agency is investigating them that says..."we received x,y,z information and have opened an investigation into you. You can come in for voluntary questioning, with or without a lawyer, if you would like to make any statements on the record or clarify your involvement in the information we received. This is not mandatory and the investigation will continue with or without your cooperation."

  • Dizzle||

    They can then ignore and allow the investigation to continue, but at least know they're being investigated. They can come in to make a statement in their defense on the record which may help exonerate them. Or they can flee which will send up red flags for further investigation.

  • DarrenM||

    Obviously, we need to outlaw fire.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Nobody needs a matchbook with more than 10 matches in it. Stick matches should only be used by the military.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Technically all you have to do is outlaw oxygen as fire requires 3 things.

  • Don't look at me.||

    If you cut down all the trees, you would prevent all forest fires.

  • nehaguptasagar||

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It was wrong of the state to imprison the suspect in a mental institution, and starting a fire in response to such imprisonment is immoral. That being said, plenty of writers complained that indefinite detentions in Gitmo lead to more recruitment to terrorist groups and called for closing the facility on national security grounds. To paraphrase Stalin, one escapee from a psychiatric ward committing violence is a symptom of a tragic illness; a million escapees from psychiatric wards committing violence in a coordinated fashion are a movement with just grievances that society must address. *Sigh* Human nature can be frustrating. I don't advocate for mad people to organize into terrorist groups, but I can see how much more sympathy they would get from progressives if they did.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Mad people already associate in terrorist groups. The Dem, GOP, Green and Communist parties all stress the desirability of initiating deadly and coercive force in These States.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    The dilemma: only a delusional idiot ignores objective warnings of potential tragedy; only a totalitarian statist punishes people for things that might happen.

    Question: how much of this dilemma is another tragedy of the commons? As long as law and tradition require we tolerate each other, no mater how risky, is there any way to resolve this (beyond the acceptance that life involves risk)?

    Seems like a private forest, contracted with a private fire agency, would have no problem inviting Mr. Clark to stay out. Similarly, a private school could expel Mr. Cruz, or impose other requirements on his attendance.

  • Hank Phillips||

    If Clark is guilty the new LP platform will seek to sentence Californians to providing him free room and board for setting such a fine example for mindless malcontents. Who comes up with these ideas for lengthening and ruining a nice party platform?

  • Novart||

    "In addition to the Holy Jim fire, he is accused of starting a fire in Trabuco Canyon."

    I believe that's just the one Holy Jim fire, named after Holy Jim Canyon located in the unincorporated community of Trabuco Canyon. I lived a bit further away in Dove Canyon - technically a part of the city of Rancho Santa Margarita, and Trabuco Canyon was still a valid address for us. Kind of confusing I guess.

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