Indy Cop Linked to Several More Fires

INDIANAPOLIS --

An Indianapolis police officer who was arrested on two counts of felony arson may be connected to numerous other arsons in the city, police said Friday.

Jesse Russell Jr., 31, was involved in two fires set at the Lakeview Terrace apartments, near 21st Street and Mitthoeffer Road on May 14,

6News' Jack Rinehart

reported, but authorities said he may be responsible for many more, and likely shot up his own squad car.

As a police officer, Russell was the first officer marked on the scene of at least seven fires in April and May, a streak investigators consider highly unusual.

In the May 14 blaze, a source told Rinehart that Russell set the 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, the source told Rinehart.

Sgt. Paul Thompson said Russell, a three-year veteran of the force, resigned after his arrest on Thursday.

Police said Russell was also the first person to report two car fires in the 8900 block of East 10th Street on April 17.

On April 18, he reported another vehicle fire at 10th Street and Post Road. A witness in that investigation told police that he saw a Chevrolet Impala police car in the area when the fire began. About 5 percent of Indianapolis police drive an Impala, including Russell, Rinehart reported.

On May 5, Russell reported a boat on fire in the 8500 block of East Washington Street and was the first at the scene.

The following day, two more vehicle fires were reported in the 8400 block of East Washington Street, about 50 minutes apart.

In a fire at an apartment in the 7900 block of Timber Ridge Drive on May 10, a witness said a man in a police uniform that matched Russell's description was standing outside the building before the fire started.

"(Firefighters) had to be shown specifically where it was, and it just so happened he knew where those fires were being set, because we believe he was the one setting them," said Indianapolis police Lt. Jeff Duhamell.

Residents and employees said they were amazed to learn that a police officer was suspected of setting the fire.

"It makes me wonder who's doing the psychological evaluations," said Park Haven Apartments manager Kris Fitts.

In the Lakeview Terrace blaze on May 14, firefighters were initially unable to find flames, but Russell pointed them to the clubhouse, police said.

A fire burned an apartment neighboring Russell's home in the 3500 block of North Mission Drive on May 21.

Russell introduced himself to Indianapolis fire Capt. Rita Burris in that blaze, gave a statement to arson investigators and told them that he saw the blaze and went door-to-door to wake up residents.

Russell has not been charged in any of the other arsons, but police think plenty of evidence links him to them.

Besides the arsons, Russell told investigators in April that

a man he tried to arrest fired rounds into his marked police car

. Duhamell said police now believe Russell fired shots into his own car.

"It's very embarrassing," Duhamell said. "It's a slap in the face to every officer that wears the uniform and risks their lives day in and day out."

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