SALISBURY — An Amesbury man faces an attempted arson charge after police say he tried burning down the Essex County Sheriff’s Office of Community Corrections building on Saturday morning.
Najib G. Daaboul, 29, of Elizabeth Street was arrested hours after the alleged incident at 80 Elm St. and arraigned Monday in Newburyport District Court on attempted arson and vandalizing property charges.
He will remain behind bars until at least Friday when a dangerousness hearing will be held in the same courthouse. A dangerousness hearing determines whether a defendant poses too great a risk to society or a victim to be afforded bail while awaiting trial.
Daaboul works next door to the Elm Street facility at Salisbury Auto Center, which is owned by his father, and was spotted there by police shortly after the fire was put out by Salisbury firefighters, according to court records.
Daaboul quickly denied any involvement but witnesses, including two who work for the court system, saw him walking behind the building shortly before the fire broke out on the rear porch, according to police. They then followed him as he walked to Salisbury Auto Center.
The employees had just returned to the community corrections building to drop off a group who had finished community service in the area.
“Both employees found it suspicious that someone would be walking from behind the building, especially knowing that the office is closed,” Salisbury police Officer Juan Guillermo wrote in his report.
The employees walked behind the building to see a fire underneath the rear porch. One of them tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher but found it had grown too large. By this time, Salisbury firefighters arrived and took care of the fire before it spread to the main building.
Guillermo and an employee then walked over to Salisbury Auto Center and spoke to Daaboul, the man spotted behind the building. Daaboul said he had been behind the building but was only there smoking a cigarette.
When pressed by Guillermo, Daaboul admitted he did more than just smoke a cigarette.
“He told me he did set a fire,” Guillermo wrote in his report.
Daaboul then went back to Salisbury Auto Center but not before Guillermo told him to stay there for a follow-up interview.
Salisbury Fire Department Capt. Andy Murphy showed Guillermo a section of the porch skirting that had been intentionally damaged and the remains of a pizza box that had been set on fire and pushed under the porch with a mop.
The captain told Guillermo the fire had been “going good” and needed to be put out by firefighters.
“He stated that the building did not catch fire, however, Captain Murphy stated that this was a clear-cut case of arson or attempted arson,” Salisbury police Sgt. Steven Sforza, who was later called to the scene, wrote in his report.
Believing the fire was deliberately set, a state police arson team was called and the porch cordoned off with yellow police tape. The arson team was able to obtain fingerprints on the mop handle.
Sforza then went to Salisbury Auto Center and spoke to Daaboul. He told Sforza that he never walked behind the corrections building to have a cigarette, contradicting what he told Guillermo.
Based on the witnesses and the different stories told to police officers, Daaboul was handcuffed and arrested less than three hours after the fire.
Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger praised the quick work of the firefighters who saved the building and the police officers who made the arrest.
“We were lucky we had witnesses who alerted Salisbury police and we’re glad they made an arrest quickly,” Coppinger said.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.