South Park man, 22, accused of setting fire to house while mom begs him to stop
A 22-year-old South Park man was charged with arson Wednesday after witnesses reported seeing him dance around in circles in his backyard as he lit items on fire and chucked them at the house next door, a criminal complaint claims.
Jeremy Burton faces four counts of arson in connection to a residential property that caught fire on Grove Road in South Park Township. He also faces charges of reckless burning, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, recklessly endangering another person and causing or risking catastrophe.
No one was injured in the fire.
Shortly after 1 a.m., 911 dispatchers received a call from a woman who said that a man in his early 20s was lighting things on fire next to her property near the 2500 block of Grove Road, South Park police said in a criminal complaint. The caller told officials that the man was violent and that it was not a suicide attempt.
South Park police requested backup. Allegheny County, Jefferson Hills and Bethel Park officials responded.
When police arrived, a vacant house on Grove Road “was fully engulfed in fire,” the complaint said.
A woman approached police from the yard next door and identified herself as the mother of the man she believed set the house on fire, the complaint said. As several fire trucks arrived, police told Burton’s mother and anyone else inside to get away from their properties as the fire was in danger of spreading.
Burton’s mother told officers that she didn’t know where her son had gone. She said he lives in the duplex next door, a property of hers, and gave them a key to enter his apartment.
Police found Burton lying on a bed on the second floor. They didn’t find anyone else inside.
A witness who lives on the street told police that he saw Burton burning items behind his duplex, then throwing the lit items toward the rear porch and side of the vacant house that caught fire, according to the complaint. The witness said Burton danced in circles around the items he’d burned like a “lunatic” while his mother called out for him to stop.
South Park police arrested Burton — whom they say reeked of alcohol — and took him to a South Park Township Police station holding cell, the complaint said.
“Burton had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath and was very confrontational with officers,” the complaint said. “Burton would calm down and then become verbally confrontational with officers, demanding his attorney and a phone call.”
At 2:05 a.m., Burton placed a sock on the video camera of his cell, according to the complaint. Officers went inside and demanded he hand over his socks, which he did.
Five minutes later, Burton stripped himself naked and placed his shorts over the video camera. Officers went inside and demanded he hand over his shorts and boxers, which he did.
Then, Burton began “dancing around inside the jail cell in circles and shaking the jail cell door repeatedly,” the complaint said.
An attorney for Burton could not be reached late Wednesday.
Burton is being held at Allegheny County Jail. His bail has been set at $10,000.
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for July 25.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, email@example.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.