County vehicles torched at Mesa repair shop in arson incident


by Catherine Holland

Posted on September 17, 2013 at 7:17 AM

Updated Thursday, Sep 19 at 6:33 AM

Map: Near Baseline Road and Mesa Drive

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MESA, Ariz. – Maricopa County sheriff's deputies say they have a suspected arsonist in custody after three county vehicles were torched at a Mesa repair shop overnight.

The burned vehicles, including a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office SUV, were discovered Tuesday morning at the county repair shop at the MCSO substation just northwest of Baseline Road and Mesa Drive.

In addition to the marked MCSO SUV, an undercover vehicle and a utility truck were burned, as well.

Deputies who were going on duty at 4 a.m spotted the fires. The vehicles reportedly were engulfed in flames when the Mesa Fire Department arrived on the scene.

It’s not clear what happened yet, but the three vehicles that caught fire were parked in different parts of the lot.

“None of these vehicles are next to each other,” 3TV’s Jill Galus reported from the scene. “It raises some red flags here.”

Deputy Joaquin Enriquez said the deputies who reported the fires detained one person who was discovered at the scene.

No injuries were reported, but the three county vehicles were destroyed.

"We do have the suspect responsible in custody," Enriquez said in an email to media outlets.

The suspect has been identified as Gustavo Hernandez.

According to MCSO, Hernandez said he has been on drugs for the past two months and reportedly wanted to kill himself. He broke into the vehicles looking for a gun. Since he didn't find one, he decided he was going to blow himself up. He used a flare to set the cars on fire.

Enriquez said Hernandez has two prior arrests. He was arrested in May for a DUI warrant and in July for allegedly inhaling toxic vapors.

Arson detectives are handling the investigation.