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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 15, 2006

18-year-old man charged with arson in Kapolei brushfire

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

An 18-year-old Kapolei man was charged yesterday with misdemeanor arson in connection with a brushfire Wednesday that burned about 3 acres in Kapolei.

Chase Merritt was charged with one count of fourth-degree arson, and his bail was set at $2,000. If convicted, Merritt faces up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Merritt was arrested Wednesday afternoon after a police helicopter pilot on a recertification flight spotted a man setting a fire in a field near Kapolei Hale. The pilot notified patrol units, and the man, identified by police as Merritt, was arrested.

Merritt was booked for felony arson, but he was charged with the lesser misdemeanor based on the value of the damage and because the blaze did not endanger any lives, said police spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii.

Merritt is the third person to be charged under the state's new arson law, which was enacted in June.

On Sept. 8, police arrested and charged a 41-year-old man on suspicion of setting two brushfires at the Kapolei Regional Park. James C. Tabor was charged with fourth-degree arson, and his bail also was set at $2,000.

Witnesses told police that they saw a man set the fires that burned about a half-acre of brush, Fujii said.

On Aug. 31, Christopher A. Buckley, 42, was charged with three counts of second-degree arson. He is accused of setting two fires at a gasoline station in Kane'ohe and a fire at the Kane'ohe post office.

Second-degree arson is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Fujii warned that police will pursue charges against anyone suspected of setting a fire.

"Just by the fact that we charged (Merritt) 24 hours later, should send a very strong statement how the justice system cares about arson," Fujii said.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.