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Serial arsonist admits to nine fires, pleads guilty to five

J.R. Oppenheim
October 11, 2017 10:13 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A suspected serial arsonist has pleaded guilty to five arsons over the Thanksgiving holiday period last year, including one that severely damaged a condominium under construction and others at major national chain locations.

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The U.S. Attorney's Office announced Wednesday that David Hickman, 28, admitted to nine arson attempts during November 2016. However, he entered guilty pleas to five arsons at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, an Old Navy clothing store, the Shred It documents shredding business, a Starbucks on Gibson Boulevard, and The Carlisle Condominiums.

Albuquerque police arrested Hickman almost immediately after he started the Old Navy fire, and he's been in federal custody ever since. He will face between five to 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.  A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

"A series of arsons in Albuquerque almost a year ago not only endangered the lives of firefighters and other innocent people, but also jeopardized the paychecks of numerous hard-working employees at the damaged businesses,” said Terry Wade, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division.

The plea agreement outlines Hickman's admission to the arsons. At the Old Navy, Hickman admitted to using an assault rifle to shoot out windows and get inside. From there, he carries Mason jars with ignitable liquid inside the store, utilizing rope cords for handles. He then dropped the jars around the store and lit them with a road flare.

After Hickman left the store, Albuquerque police officers saw him, followed him and pulled him over. They found a handgun, the assault rifle and a road flare on his belt along with duct tape, more Mason jars and ammunition. The items on him included Tannerite, a substance that explodes once it's struck by a bullet.

Hickman admitted to using similar techniques in the other arsons at the Gibson Starbucks, the Barnes and Noble bookstore at Coronado, the Shred-It building.

At the condominium building, which was under construction at the time, Hickman said he cut his way through the chain link fence around the site. He again used Mason jars filled with combustible liquid and carried them with rope handles.

The Carlisle nearly burned completely to the ground, and the building is currently under construction again. Of the arsons, the Carlisle fire was the largest.

“This guilty plea ensures justice in a very disturbing case. We appreciate the hard work and diligence of our law enforcement partners,” Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden said.

The attorney's office listed the nine times Hickman said he attempted the arsons:

  • Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 800 Broadway Blvd. NE
  • Project Defending Life, located at 625 San Mateo Blvd. NE
  • Carlisle Condominiums, located at 3600 Central Ave. SE
  • Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 5301 Gibson Blvd. SE
  • Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 4407 Lomas Blvd. NE
  • Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 3400 Central Ave. SE
  • Barnes & Noble Bookstore, located at the Coronado Mall at 6600 Menaul Blvd. NE
  • Shred It, located at 1415 Broadway Blvd. NE
  • Old Navy, located at 4900 Cutler Ave. NE

“The successful investigation and prosecution of David Hickman brings great pride to the Albuquerque Fire Department, especially its Fire Investigation Division," Albuquerque Fire Capt. Jackie Lance said. "Through a community approach, the men and women of the FID, together with APD, ATF and FBI worked diligently to close this case while continuing to keep our community safe."

Credits

J.R. Oppenheim

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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