A man from Iowa has been arrested for an unrelated charge but is a suspect in connection with a fire set at the Texas State Capitol on August 7th. The man, 38-year-old Michael Patrick Wagner, was arrested this week and is in a Iowa jail.
Breitbart Texas reported that a dark colored car located at the south entrance of the Capitol was on fire on August 7th. The car was parked in a secured parking area just yards from the entrance to the Capitol.
The car belonged to a Capitol staffer, James “Trey” Morgan, III. Morgan works in the Sergeant at Arms office in the Texas House.
One witness told this writer that the fire spread to the white SUV parked next to the car. The Austin Fire Department quickly responded and were able to stop the flames from spreading to other vehicles.
The source of the car fire has been under investigation.
On August 8th, Breitbart Texas reported that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) was seeking help from the public in identifying a “person of interest” in connection with the car fire. The DPS was circulating the photo of the individual suspected of starting the fire (photo seen below).
The Texas State Capitol arson suspect, described as a white male, had been seen earlier on the day of the fire, according to the DPS. He had been seen wearing dark colored shorts, a black T-shirt and a camouflaged baseball cap.
The suspect had been seen pouring liquid on the car. He then kneeled in front of the car in a suspicious manner. He walked away from the car very quickly, according to reports by KVUE ABC News in Austin.
The DPS released a written statement saying that the State Fire Marshall’s Office (a division of the DPS) was conducting an arson investigation in relation to the car fire.
KVUE ABC reported that the suspect’s fingerprints had been left on a Texas Constitution pamphlet taken from the House Speaker’s podium. This area is not open to the public. The man ran away when confronted by Capitol staffers when he was in a kitchen located behind the House chamber.
According to the Austin media outlet, Wagner was arrested for theft at a Walmart in Iowa.
Two Texas Rangers and a Criminal Investigations Division Special Agent are traveling to Iowa to deliver the arrest warrant for a second-degree felony arson charge and to request extradition to Texas, according to a DPS press release obtained by Breitbart Texas.
Wagner has a criminal malicious mischief conviction from 2013, according to KVUE ABC.
The Iowan is also suspected of being seen in House Speaker Joe Straus’ office and near his Capitol apartment, according to multiple media outlets.
In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, he wrote, “I applaud the Department of Public Safety for swiftly and successfully capturing the suspected arsonist believed to have set fire to a vehicle at the Capitol. I look forward to the suspect’s extradition to Texas to face justice. I am grateful for the Department’s collaborative work with local and federal authorities in this effort and the Department’s continued service to ensuring all those working in or visiting the Texas Capitol feel safe and protected.”
“Thanks to great police and investigative work by local, state and federal law enforcement in Texas as well as our partners in Iowa, we are pleased to announce that the suspect in this case has been arrested,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw in the DPS press release. “Visitors and employees at the state capitol can be assured that DPS works hard to keep them safe, and when a crime does occur, DPS works quickly to identify and locate those responsible.”
Wagner is currently being held in the Linn County Jail on an unrelated charge, and extradition proceedings related to the Texas warrant are pending.
It is unknown why the native Iowan would come to the Texas Capitol and allegedly set a fire.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served Texas as a prosecutor and an associate judge. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2