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Surveillance footage helps police nab arson suspect

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POSTED October 25, 2011 1:49 a.m.

A Manteca arson suspect was arrested early Sunday morning.

Manteca Police said the suspect is believed to be connected with a string of fires that occurred between midnight and 4 a.m. Sunday on the west central side of the community.

Robert Leland Toon, 56, was taken into custody by patrolman Steve Beermann after the officer reviewed two digital surveillance recordings that allegedly caught the suspect in the act of setting fires near liquor stores on Union Road and on West Yosemite Avenue.

Beermann said Toon could possibly be connected with a string of fires in Manteca over the summer that were started in much the same way, but using trash dumpsters to ignite nearby buildings.

The officer said he had taken the digital evidence to the police department’s day shift briefing on Sunday morning where a couple of the patrolmen recognized the man setting the fires as being Toon.

The suspect is being held in the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp in lieu of $50,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in the Manteca Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court today, Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m.

The first fire was near the Discount and Liquor store at 502 North Union Road just south of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks that occurred just 30 minutes past midnight, police said. The flames were reportedly lapping up the side window of the business.

The next call involved a dumpster in the alley next to a liquor store facing on Union Road in the Market Place Shopping Center located at 1231 West Yosemite Avenue with yet another having been set in the 1800 block.

At 2:30 a.m. the fire department dispatcher received one more arson call about someone lighting fire in a trash toter and pushing it into the bushes at 1499 West Yosemite across from Kaiser Hospital.

A last fire was discovered to have burned itself out in another trash container in the same shopping center behind the Café Aroma coffee shop, smoldering when it was found by firefighters.  Firemen said no one apparently witnessed it burning after it had been set at about 4 a.m.

The former longtime detective said he took on the case himself, realizing how backed up the detectives are today with numerous caseloads pending with staffing cutbacks.  He said he felt the suspect might have a connection with the summer fires that have occurred in the Manteca area.

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