An Atascadero man with a history of run-ins with police was arrested early Tuesday morning after police said he may have been involved in an arson house fire, then led authorities on a high-speed pursuit that reached into Paso Robles, according to a news release from the Atascadero Police Department.
At about 7:20 p.m., Atascadero police and firefighters responded to the 1500 block of El Camino Real for reports of a structure fire. When they arrived, they found a home fully engulfed in flames, according to the release.
The fire was contained just before 8 p.m., according to the Atascadero Fire Department. The residents of the home were not there at the time of the incident, and neither requested Red Cross assistance, according to Atascadero Deputy City Manager Terrie Banish.
The fire, which started in a bedroom, caused an estimated $265,000 worth of property and content loss, according to a news release from the fire department. About 40 percent of the home was destroyed, Banish said. One firefighter received minor injuries during the blaze, but no one else was hurt.
“Due to evidence at the scene, it became evident the fire was intentionally set,” the police department said.
Authorities spoke to witnesses, and one witness said a small truck was seen driving away from the home after the fire started, according to the release.
Atascadero police said they were told the truck belonged to Charles Scovell, 40, a resident of the home that burned.
At about 11:45 p.m., an Atascadero police officer saw the truck leaving the Motel 6 in the 9400 block of El Camino Real and attempted to stop the vehicle, according to the release. The driver of the truck, whom police identified as Scovell, did not yield and a vehicle pursuit began.
Police, with assistance from San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s deputies, chased Scovell’s car up Highway 101 into Paso Robles and then onto Highway 46 East past Airport Road, according to the release.
Police said Scovell then turned the truck around and authorities pursued it back into the city of Paso Robles, where Scovell stopped the car at the intersection of Highway 46 East and Highway 101.
“Scovell refused to comply with the commands of officers at the scene,” the release said, and officers used a police dog in hopes of subduing him.
Officials said Scovell escaped from the K9 and got back in the truck, and the pursuit continued onto southbound Highway 101. Speeds during the pursuit reached more than 100 mph, according to the release.
Police deployed spike strips, which disabled Scovell’s truck near Curbaril Avenue, according to the release.
“Due to the deployment of the spike strips, officers were forced to fall back from the pursuit,” the release said, and Scovell was able to get away from police.
Authorities found Scovell’s vehicle abandoned in the driveway of the Motel 6 on El Camino Real and determined that he had rented a room at the motel earlier on Monday, according to the release.
“Officers surrounded Scovell’s room and called for him to surrender, but he refused to comply,” the release said.
Police called for the San Luis Obispo County Special Enforcement Detail for help.
After a “lengthy” standoff, members of the Special Enforcement Detail entered the room and police took Scovell into custody, according to the release.
Scovell was taken to Twin Cities Community Hospital for injuries he suffered during the incident, police said. After he’s treated, police said he’ll be taken to the San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of evading an officer, resisting arrest and “other related charges.”
The Atascadero police and fire departments are still conducting a follow-up investigation into the arson case. Police ask anyone with information about the arson investigation to call Sgt. Jeff Wilshusen at 805-461-5051.
Scovell, who owned a tree service business, unsuccessfully challenged Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley in 2014.
He was arrested on suspicion of felony driving under the influence resulting in injury and felony hit-and-run after a 2015 crash. He was sentenced to about 20 days in County Jail and three years of probation.
In January 2016, he accepted a plea deal in a domestic violence case stemming from an hours-long standoff with police. Court records show Scovell was handed a 6-year sentence, which was suspended pending completion of five years of formal probation. He was also ordered to undergo “intensive outpatient treatment.”
In December 2016, he allegedly tried to rob a teller at Heritage Oaks Bank in Paso Robles and led officers on another car chase. For that, he was sentenced to 16 months in state prison, records show.
Tribune reporter Matt Fountain contributed to this story.