Local

Police looking for the man who set fire inside St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum

St. Augustine Police are looking for a man who they said tried to set a local museum on fire … with people inside.

“I just couldn’t even imagine that anything or anybody would do this,” St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum Executive Director Cindy Stavely said.

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum employees are shaken up after police said a man tried to set the building on fire.

“To see it all on the video, on our surveillance video, was really bone-chilling to see that someone had actually tried so hard to make it happen,” Stavely said.

Employees said they can’t share the footage with us because it’s an active investigation, but pictures show the suspect police are looking for. He is wearing a blue hood, black gloves, a neck gaiter, and a red backpack.

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Investigators said he placed some sort of device between a chair and a wall and then it set on fire. According to the report, it was a rectangular container filled with liquid that smelled like oil or paint thinner.

“It appears that they had some idea of what to do,” St. Augustine Police public information officer Dee Brown said.

Witnesses said the flames grew as high as four feet before an employee quickly extinguished them.

“The museum was full of people taking a tour so it could have been a big tragedy,” Brown said.

Employees and police want the public to keep an eye out for this man.

“If he did it here I’m just afraid that he’ll try it somewhere else,” Stavely said.

Action News Jax’s law and safety expert Dale Carson said the suspect may be facing enhanced charges since the building was filled with people when he set the fire.

“More than that, it may be attempted murder as well,” Carson said. “Arson is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison under those circumstances because it was occupied at the time.”

Carson added that police have a range of potential motives in this case.

“One has to ask whether or not this was done as a diversion in order to steal the gold or whether this was a disgruntled individual who was not happy with the museum in some way,” Carson said.

Police are asking those questions.

“They have not let anyone go within two or three years. So on their end at the pirate museum, [it’s] not a disgruntled employee at least,” Brown said.

Now they need the public’s help finding this man, worried he may try something like this again.

“I can’t stress it enough. If you see something, say something,” Brown said.


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