General Crime

* Miguel Balderos Arrested for Allegedly Starting Fire at Santa Cruz City Hall

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Police have arrested 52-year-old Miguel Balderos for allegedly starting a fire on Friday morning that caused more than $50,000 in damage to the building that houses the city attorney’s office in Santa Cruz. The fire began at around 4:15 a.m. on Friday at the Atchinson building at 333 Church St., according to Santa Cruz police. Firefighters were quickly able to extinguish the fire, and investigators later determined that a recycling container had been set next to the front door and lit on fire. The fire burned the front door and caused some damage to the surrounding area. In the days leading up to the fire, graffiti was discovered next to the front door of the building denouncing the city’s camping ban and depicting other anarchist symbols, according to police. Police used surveillance videos to identify Balderos, of Santa Cruz, as a suspect. He is on parole and has an extensive arrest record dating back to 2000, according to police. Balderos was arrested outside a 7-11 store at Mission Street and Swift Street on Saturday, according to police. Police received a call from the store after someone recognized Balderos from the photo published on the front page of the local Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper. Police said Balderos admitted to arson, and indicated that his motive was to protest the city’s municipal ordinance prohibiting overnight camping in public, according to police. Additionally, Balderos said he was protesting the city’s recent injunction against a couple who has compiled more that 60 total unpaid citations for public nuisance crimes, including camping, according to police. Balderos also admitted to posting several flyers around the city in the hours leading up to the arson advertising an upcoming protest against the camping ordinance on behalf of a group called Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom, according to police. He also admitted to participating in local “anarchist” groups. Balderos was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail without bail and is charged with arson and parole violation.

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