Crime

Man arrested on suspicion of arson and hate crimes after fire near Orcutt church

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

A 19-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson and a hate crime in connection with a fire that damaged a shed near a church in Orcutt on Friday afternoon.

Shortly after noon, personnel from the Santa Barbara County and Santa Maria Fire Departments responded to an incident on the 800 block of Cambria Avenue, near Bradley Road, according to county fire engineer Sam Ferguson

Firefighters found a storage shed engulfed in flames, but extinguished the fire before it could spread to the main structure, Ferguson said.

The site is home to the Winepress Church.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies approached the burning building and observed a man sitting near the smoking structure on the west side of the church property, Lt. Erik Raney said Friday night.

“As deputies spoke with the subject about the fire, they learned that the man actually started the fire,” Raney said. “During the course of their investigation, deputies determined that the act of starting the fire was directed against the church.”

County arson investigators will work to determine the specifics of how the fire was started, Raney added.

Gage Rowdy Tuttle, 19, was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of arson, vandalism and hate crimes, with bail set at $50,000.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
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