LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - A 25-year-old man who climbed atop a church Wednesday night in Boyle Heights, allegedly lit a fire underneath a cross and evaded police by jumping from rooftop to rooftop was finally taken into custody after an ordeal that lasted several hours.
The suspect was identified only as John Doe because he was being uncooperative and was refusing to provide authorities with his name, police said. He was arrested on suspicion of arson.
The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to reports of a possible jumper who appeared "to be trying to light the building on fire" at St. Mary's Catholic Church in the 400 block of South Chicago Street at around 8:25 p.m., according to LAFD spokesperson Margaret Stewart.
Wearing only boxers and one sock, the man appeared to light a fire under one rooftop cross and also appeared to kick a second statue in an attempt to knock it over.
A security guard who first noticed the man's erratic behavior told CBSLA that he tried to talk to him down.
"When I looked up, he was up on the platforms, and all he kept saying was, 'I don't want to do it,'" James Thomas told CBSLA Thursday. "So the first thing I said was, 'Don't do it then, because I'm scared of heights, and I'm not coming up to get you.'"
"For a minute we thought he was gonna jump, he climbed all the way to the top, he was throwing items off at the police, the fire department, people that was standing around," Thomas added. "As the night wore on, he hopped off the side and went on a foot chase."
At around 9:25 p.m., the man jumped from the church to an adjacent building. He ran across that building's roof and onto another roof where he then grabbed what looked like a utility line to scale the side of yet another structure.
The Los Angeles Police Department responded to the scene with officers on both the ground and in a police helicopter where, for a time, they tracked the man with the chopper's night-sun spotlight. However, LAPD turned the spotlight off at one point in hopes of calming the man, who appeared agitated and was running from the light.
Eventually, the man entered a building that police had just been able to evacuate moments before. The family who's home was entered were reportedly shaken up and very scared, but otherwise okay.
Police took the suspect into custody at around 10:30 p.m. and transported him to a local hospital, though CBSLA's Tom Wait reported that the man appeared to be alert and did not seem severely injured.
Firefighters were able to ensure that the fire under the rooftop cross was out and that there was no further threat of flames spreading to any other areas of the church.
The suspect is being held on $75,000 bail.
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