MENDOCINO Co., 8/20/20 — A number of suspected arson fires have occurred in the Ukiah Valley this past week, and today the Ukiah Police Department announced a third arrest for arson, although as of now there is no indication that there is any connection between the different incidents or suspected arsonists.
The third arrest is 26 year old Esteban Rodriguez, who was taken to Mendocino County Jail and booked with bail set at $250,000 for a series of alleged arson fires that occurred in the evening on Tuesday, August 18. The investigation is still ongoing, according to the UPD release, and officers are seeking information that might connect Rodriguez to any additional fires that occurred in the area during the 24 hours prior to his arrest.
In the span of one week, Ukiah Police also arrested Kristine Lynn Tupper, a 26 year old woman in connected with suspected arson on the evening of August 16, and Alberto Acosta, a 32 year old man for suspected arson fires that occurred August 12. However, there is no indication that these fires or arrests are connected to each other.
Press Release – UPD Cases # 20-1779 & 20-1780 – Multiple Arsons
On 8/19/20, at approx. 11 AM, UPD Officers and Ukiah Valley Fire Dept. responded to a vegetation fire in the creek behind Oak Manor School (400 Oak Manor Dr.). Upon arrival, a citizen was extinguishing the fire with a garden hose. A UPD Officer was able to fully extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher. At the same time, UPD Officers noticed a column of smoke coming from behind Big Lots, located at 225 S. Orchard Ave. Officers responded there and found the contents of a garbage dumpster was on fire. Ukiah Valley Fire Dept. responded and extinguished that fire.
Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies saturated the area looking for a suspect and/or more fires. Officers were able to review surveillance footage from neighboring businesses and were able to identify the suspect. The suspect was described as wearing a yellow hat, dark shirt, light colored pants, and a black backpack. This information was disseminated to other officers who were searching the area. The suspect, later identified as Esteban Rodriguez (28-year old transient), was located at the intersection of Leslie St. and E. Perkins St. approx. an hour after the fires.
After questioning Rodriguez, enough information and evidence was collected to determine Rodriguez was responsible for setting the fires that had just occurred. Officers requested a bail enhancement which was granted. Rodriguez’ bail was set at $250,000. Rodriguez was booked into Mendocino County Jail for two counts of arson, two counts of arson during a state of emergency, and violation of probation (on probation for a violation of 11377(a) HS possession of a controlled substance).
This investigation is ongoing and we are gathering more evidence in an attempt to determine Rodriguez’ possible involvement in regards to the 8 other fires that had occurred in the Ukiah area during the 24 hours prior to Rodriguez’ arrest.
UPD would like to thank the Ukiah Valley Fire Department, Cal Fire, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and the Mendocino County Probation Department for their quick response and assistance with these fires.
The attached booking photo of Rodriguez is from 2019.
Prepared by: Lt. Cedric CrookUPD press release, 8/20/20