Man sets fire to courthouse to avoid misdemeanor sentence - Dallas News |

Man sets fire to courthouse to avoid misdemeanor sentence

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DECATUR, Texas -

A man is in jail for allegedly threatening a county attorney's life and setting a fire at the courthouse. He was trying to avoid being sentenced for a misdemeanor and ended up with felony charges instead.

Longtime Wise County Attorney Barry Green was in the courthouse last month when smoke started pouring out of a third floor bathroom.

"It was irritating. You could definitely feel it in your lungs and chest," he said.

The entire building was evacuated. Firefighters later found a ceramic bowl at the bottom of the bathroom trash can and determined it had been filled with brake fluid and chlorine.

"The fire immediately became something suspicious," said Sheriff David Walker.

The day before someone has also scribbled a message on a stall in the basement bathroom threatening another attorney's life.

"So now we have the death threat and the fire," Walker said.

Investigators started watching courthouse surveillance video and discovered 26-year-old Johnny Pippin wandering around the building with a backpack on.

"He did confess to the fire and the death threat," the sheriff said.

Sheriff Walker said on the day of the fire Pippin was set to be sentenced to 50 days in jail for unlawful possession of a weapon.

"He was coming in on misdemeanor charges and ended up with serious felonies," he said.

Although the fire didn't do a lot of damage to the historic courthouse, the felony charges stem from the fact that it was set at a place of public gathering, that it endangered at least one child and that it was deliberately set.

Pippin will likely sit in jail for a while now. His bond was set at $1 million.


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