A professor for American University in Washington D.C. has been placed on leave after being arrested for allegedly breaking into several shops and setting several fires.
David W. Pitts, who chairs the school’s Department of Public Administration and Policy, was arrested last week and charged with burglary and destruction of private property for breaking into the Foxhall Square shopping mall, a strip of stores located below his Washington apartment, according to the Washington Post.
Pitts, 37, has been with the university since 2005, has a doctorate degree, and is on the boards of several professional journals and magazines.
Police say that Pitts set a chair on fire near the guard shack of his apartment complex parking garage. He then lit a newspaper on fire in front of a nearby Starbucks. Then he set a fire in a wooded area off Embassy Drive.
Security officers called police when the professor forced his way into a section of the mall housing the pharmacy, a bank, and doctor’s offices. Pitts was chased through the mall and was eventually caught in the parking garage.
Police found among Pitts’ belongings a white bag containing newspapers and some sort of flammable substance. They also found matches and two lighters in his pockets. In his apartment, police found 5,431 prescription pills, including 2,310 Cialis pills, sedatives to treat insomnia, and oxycodone.
After denying he set the fires, Pitts later blamed his behavior on a “disoriented state” and said he broke into the stores because of a “need to obtain an envelope in his name containing a prescription.”
Suspiciously, Pitts also Tweeted several times about fires set at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel on Aug. 30. Authorities said that the hotel fires were a case of arson and were set during the 2014 meeting of the American Political Science Association. Thus far police have not linked the professor to these fires.
According to one profile, the professor’s research “examines diversity issues in public management and policy, with particular interests in race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in K-12 and postsecondary education. His current projects include a paper about LGBs in the US federal service and a multi-year project about determinants of undergraduate student persistence.”
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