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Suicidal man arrested for arson in Nogales

Posted at 11:14 AM, Sep 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-29 14:14:51-04

Nogales police arrested a suicidal man after he set multiple fires on Wednesday, according to a news release.

Police say at 11:40 a.m. they responded to the McDonald's on West Crawford Street after receiving several reports of a fire outside the restaurant near the drive-thru. 

Callers had told dispatch that a shirtless, heavy-set man was purposely setting fire to a possible gas meter on the property. 

Officers arrived on scene and saw that there were three fires. One on the high pressure valves, one next to an electrical box, and another at the base of an electric pole. 

Responding officers used their issued fire extinguishers to put out the fires. 

Nogales police searched for the suspect toward Elm Street where they saw the man had also set fire to a trash can. 

As officers located the suspect he was found actively starting a fire underneath a vehicle using a gasoline canister. 

The suspect then made verbal threats toward officers while reaching reaching into a backpack. An officer then deployed his Taser on the suspect, safely subduing him and he was then taken into custody. 

The suspect was not hurt and was identified as 63-year-old James Sterling Roberts. 

Police say Roberts showed a home record in Wilcox, Arizona but told NPD he was a transient in Nogales since the summer of 2013. 

During his interview with police Roberts had told police that his intent was to kill himself by burning down an electric pole to electrocute himself or "blow himself up." 

Police say Roberts had also mentioned that the thought of "suicide by cop" once he saw that officers approached him. 

Police reports indicate that Roberts purposefully made threats, aggressive gestures, and movements, when confronted by the officer who Tased him, to provoke the officer to shoot and kill him. 

NPD says no firearms or bladed weapons were seen on Roberts at any time during the incident or found on his person.

He was booked into jail after being checked at the local hospital for a medical screening, per local protocol.

Roberts was charged with 4 felony counts of Arson and 1 felony count of resisting arrest.