FARMINGTON — Police have an arrest warrant for a 39-year-old homeless man in connection with a fire that broke out on Tuesday night at a storage unit located behind attorney Cosme Ripol's law office in downtown Farmington.
Farmington police Lt. Casey Malone said officers were dispatched at 10:45 p.m. after a neighbor reported seeing a man, later identified as Sterling Yazzie, exit a storage unit at 201 E. Broadway Ave. The woman told dispatchers that she could see smoke coming from inside the unit.
Malone said the fire was quickly extinguished by firefighters from the Farmington Fire Department. He suspects that Yazzie, who police found near the scene of the incident, might have started the fire to stay warm. Malone said Yazzie was heavily intoxicated when officers made contact with him. They did not arrest him at the time.
Ripol told The Daily Times that he was alerted to the fire shortly after midnight and arrived at his law office at about 1 a.m. He said that the storage unit contained legal paperwork related to closed cases and suspected the fire was started intentionally.
"Lots of files were burned," he said. "I am very thankful to the lord that my building wasn't burned down and none of my equipment was harmed. I see what was attempted, but I also see the good things that happened. It could have been worse."
He said that the fire will not have an impact on any ongoing cases.
"The current files I have were not damaged," he said. "These were old files that you are required to store for at least five years."
Yazzie was charged in April in Farmington Magistrate Court with misdemeanor aggravated battery, but charges were dismissed after a witness failed to appear. Malone said that Yazzie is originally from Red Valley, Ariz.