Indy Cop Charged in 7 Arsons



A former Indianapolis police officer was charged Wednesday with seven felonies related to three recent arsons in Indianapolis.

Jesse Russell Jr., 31, was charged with six counts of arson, three Class B felonies and three Class D felonies, along with criminal mischief, a Class D felony.

One of the charges involved a May 10 fire at the clubhouse of the Park Haven Apartments, a second involved a May 14 fire at the Lakeview Terrace apartments and two others involved a May 21 fire at Las Palmas Apartments.

Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said that in the May 14, Russell set a fire and then called police from a nearby pay phone.

Russell's fingerprints were found on the pay phone and a can of gasoline was discovered in his truck, a source told 6News' Jack Rinehart last week.

"He disguised his voice while he was reporting the fire," said Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. "To me, he was just thumbing his nose and saying, 'Ha, ha, ha. I'm smarter than all of you guys,' when really and truly, he wasn't."

The other three charges were related to vehicle fires, including one set to Indianapolis' infamous chicken limousine.

"It was very shocking. I'm really surprised and disappointed," said Laura Shearer, who owns the antique store where two of the vehicles were parked. "That's the last person I would have thought of."

Late last month, authorities implicated Russell in a series of fires that spanned from September 2009 to May 2010. Authorities said the Russell was the first officer marked on the scene of at least seven fires in April and May, something investigators considered highly unusual.

By the time police said Russell set the May 21 fire, he had already become a suspect, and investigators had affixed a GPS tracking device to his patrol car.

"They have him going in at the end of his shift at 3:52 a.m., and the fire was reported at 4:15 a.m.," Brizzi said.

Class B felonies are punishable by a sentence of six to 20 years, and a maximum sentence for a Class D felony is three years.


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