Columbia Police and Fire departments responded to 701 E. Broadway, City Hall, due to a fire alarm and 911 call on Monday, Nov. 26 at approximately 11:20 a.m.
Upon arrival, units from the Columbia Fire Department observed that the building had been evacuated and noticed a strong smell of smoke in the east side lobby. Crews were directed to a first-floor men’s restroom where they found a small, smoldering fire in a toilet paper holder attached to a wall. Witnesses told Fire personnel that a City employee had attempted to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. Fire crews ensured the fire was completely extinguished and made an opening in the wall to make sure fire had not migrated into the wall. Fire crews also provided ventilation to remove smoke from the building. Assistant Fire Marshal Jim Pasley determined the fire was intentionally set and estimates damage at approximately $1,000 which includes repairs to the wall and replacement of restroom materials.
A witness observed the suspect leave City Hall and was able to continually watch him from a safe distance while the suspect walked down Broadway, all the while updating responding officers to the location. Officers made contact with Willis Daniel Stokes III, 58, of Columbia and found probable cause existed to arrest him for 1st degree Arson and found that he had an outstanding municipal warrant. There were no reported injuries during the incident and the arrest.
case number 2018-013239