SURPRISE (3TV/CBS 5) – Police have arrested an El Mirage man who allegedly set cars on fire to distract police while he robbed a bank in Surprise.
According to Surprise police, on January 10, officers responded to the area of Bell Road and Grand Avenue regarding a vehicle on fire around 3 p.m. As officers arrived, additional calls came in regarding a second vehicle fire in a different parking lot nearby.
Police say about two minutes after the second vehicle fire was reported, staff from the Bank of America called in to report that the bank had been robbed. Both vehicle fires and the bank robbery occurred within a quarter-mile radius and occurred within a ten-minute window.
Detectives were able to identify 28-year-old Israel Diaz, a resident of El Mirage, as the man responsible for all three incidents during their investigation. On Monday, Diaz was taken into custody by Surprise police.
At the time of his arrest, police say Diaz was in possession of a loaded handgun and meth.
During his interview, Diaz reportedly told investigators that he had lost his job earlier in the week and had been served an eviction notice. Diaz said his plan was to set the two vehicle fires as a diversion before robbing the bank.
After robbing the bank, police say Diaz returned home and removed the clothes he wore during the robbery and burned them in his barbecue grill.
Diaz was booked into the Maricopa County Jail on multiple felony charges. Diaz faces robbery charges, two counts of arson, kidnapping, possession of dangerous drugs, and tampering with physical evidence.
The Surprise Police Department said numerous community members called and e-mailed in tips, which led to the identification and arrest of Diaz.