UPDATE: Court documents say man arrested for arson was living at homeless shelter at Bangor hotel
They say police issued a subpoena to get surveillance video from the Ramada Inn, operated by PCHC, after they did not turn it over.
BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Court documents say a man who was living at the homeless shelter set up in the Ramada Inn in Bangor was caught on video at the business next door with a gas can before part of the property caught on fire.
The hotel is currently being operated by Penobscot Community Health Care as an extension of the Hope House, a homeless shelter in Bangor.
Michael Benfield, 56, formerly of Tacoma, Washington, is charged with arson and burglary. He made his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon where he was ordered to be held on $25,000 bail.
Firefighters responded on Sunday to the Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream property on Odlin Road.
A detached storage garage near the entrance of the parking lot was up in flames.
Court documents say police issued a subpoena to get surveillance video from the hotel after PCHC officials did not turn it over.
We have reached out to PCHC who say federal law governing their facilities require police to get a subpoena due to privacy rules.
Police say Benfield was arrested at around 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Ramada Inn
He was taken to the Penobscot County Jail where he is currently being held.
His next court appearance is in June.
According to court records, a witness who lives at the Ramada Inn says they saw a male on the backside of the hotel dumping gas on a tree from a blue gas can.
The witness told staff and then stepped outside and looked towards Fielder’s Choice. That’s when he saw the male walking down the side of the Ramada, now carrying a white bag.
He said the man then walked through the front door of the hotel.
The documents say police tried to review camera footage at the Ramada but PCHC staff would not do that without a court order.
Staff would not tell them if anyone fitting the man’s description was staying at the Ramada.
Police interviewed the Fielder’s Choice owner. He told them there was a blue gas can in the storage building, they recently had some tampering to one of the doors, and they had several aluminum bats in the building.
Police also reviewed the camera footage from Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream.
The video shows a person wearing dark clothing and carrying a white bag, walk past the storage building, then return and kick in the door.
The person then leaves with the bag and gas can, breaks through the fence and walk towards the hotel.
After several minutes, smoke and flames begin to appear in the storage building.
Once police were able to get the video from the hotel after a subpoena was served, they saw a white male with a red moustache walk from backside of the hotel carrying a white pillow and an aluminum softball bat.
Using a screen shot from surveillance, police say another person living at the hotel was able to identify him as Michael Benfield who they say also lived at the hotel.
Benfield met with police and told them he was out exploring the area that day and would not admit to doing anything wrong.
He says he remembers walking to Fielder’s Choice and eventually went back to his room.
He told police he remembered watching the fire with a friend.
When police asked why he would do something like this and potentially hurt people, Benfield advised that he did not start the fire but that he only damages property, he does not hurt people.
A search warrant was also obtained for his hotel room. A black jacket and a pair of blue jeans were found, like what the suspect in the video was wearing.
Police also found an aluminum softball bat in the manager’s office. Court documents say it had been deemed dangerous by staff.
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