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Arson cases can be hard to solve, but someone always leaves a trace

Posted at 1:02 AM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 01:18:53-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Police are looking for a man they say is wanted in connect with multiple fires that were set deliberately. An expert on arson cases explained they can be hard to solve.

John Goodpaster is an associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology, and he used to work for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"The means to commit arson are available to almost anybody," Goodpaster said.

That's why Goodpaster said investigators first look at the victims.

"That's one of the key parts of an investigation is to find out who the victim was and who did they know and who might have a motive for harming them," he said.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indianapolis Fire Department are working together to attempt to figure out who committed several arsons in Indianapolis. RTV6's cameras were rolling as a home on Pennsylvania Street burned and a neighbor's surveillance camera captured footage of another fire burning at a home on Talbot Street.

"Often, an arsonist can try to set a fire but then they leave the area immediately, so it's hard to trail them," Goodpaster said.

RELATED | IMPD searching for person of interest in several arsons

Neighbors previously told RTV6 the fires were started using patio furniture. The surveillance footage released by police shows the suspect leaning over furniture on a front patio.

"It's something that we as a community all together can help. It matters what people see and say and pass that information on," Goodpaster said.

So far, no one has been injured in these fires, but that could change. That's why police want you to help identify the person or people in the videos you can watch above in the news clip, one showing a person riding a bike with a dark backpack and the other of someone on a porch.

"Any one of these fires can become large and then quite costly and deadly," Goodpaster said.

A spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Fire Department said it's important to have a well-practiced evacuation plan and always know two ways out of every room.

"There's no way to commit arson and not leave a trace," Goodpaster said.

Goodpaster said fingerprints and DNA frequently survive fires, so he's confident someone will eventually be brought to justice.

"Eventually, they will find somebody that's responsible for this," Goodpaster said.

Police are asking for anyone who recognizes the person in the surveillance pictures to contact Crime Stoppers or IMPD's arson detectives at 317-327-6700.

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