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Another Implicated in August Arson Case

COS+district+police+office+Duke+Hettick+meets+with+the+Visalia+Fire+Department+outside+of+the+Sierra+building.
COS district police office Duke Hettick meets with the Visalia Fire Department outside of the Sierra building.

COS district police office Duke Hettick meets with the Visalia Fire Department outside of the Sierra building.

Daniel Gonzalez

Daniel Gonzalez

COS district police office Duke Hettick meets with the Visalia Fire Department outside of the Sierra building.

John Dillion, Staff Editor

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New information has recently surfaced regarding the College of the Sequoias fires of Aug. 20 and Aug. 21.

Police reports and court documents were filed regarding the case. Tia Banks, suspect Josiah Banks’ mother and conservator filed a temporary restraining order against Christian Cervantes who is a student at COS. The court granted the order restraining Cervantes from Banks’ person, home, school, and person.

Allegedly, Cervantes coerced Banks into lighting the five fires on the 21st.

“Josiah hasn’t been able to sleep and do daily living things,” according to the restraining order request. “He is terrified… that he will come after him and hurt him since he has been telling the truth about what he threatened him to never tell.”

The order itself was only granted until directly after the hearing scheduled for September 17, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

According to the document, Cervantes lit a previous fire in Porterville. He also allegedly “threatened to harm Josiah if he told about the prior fire,” and harassed Banks on the previous Friday by following him around and staring at him.

If the report is accurate and Cervantes is responsible, he got away by the skin of his teeth.

The campus police flagged him as their initial suspect. According to the police documents, a witness saw him leave a bathroom where a fire was found only moments later. He was taken into custody and transported to the Tulare County Adult Pre-Trial Facility. The arresting officer found a lighter and two cell phones on his person.

The following day, one of the officers present for the arrest interviewed Cervantes at the Pre-Trial facility and dropped charges on him. Cervantes mentioned that there was another man in the bathroom he left supposedly changing clothes. It was implied that the man changing clothes lit the fire soon after Cervantes left.

However, the witness reported that they entered the bathroom immediately after Cervantes left and saw a fire.

According to the police reports filed, Cervantes acted suspiciously. The officer asked if Cervantes had a lighter which he confirmed. Cervantes also does not smoke and “uses the lighter for random things, the most common thing was to bum off the little threads that come off his clothing.”

He then began to become unstable, stated the reports. “While questioning [Cervantes] he became very weak and started wobbling on his feet.” Cervantes later attributed this to a diet he had and that he had issues with some foods.

Currently, Cervantes does not have any charges pressed against him, and Banks is awaiting a hearing.

We will keep you updated as more events unfold.

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Another Implicated in August Arson Case