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Man accused of setting fire to Sandpoint church

by LAUREN REICHENBACH
Staff Writer | June 27, 2023 1:00 AM

A 36-year-old man was arrested earlier this month on arson charges after police say he allegedly attempted to set fire to a Sandpoint church.

On June 11, a Sandpoint Police officer was dispatched to a business after several reports the building was on fire. Upon arrival, the officer advised that both doors were unlocked and in the hallway of the building — which housed multiple businesses — was a plastic trash can with remnants of burnt magazines inside, according to court records. The fire had begun spreading to the walls, which caused damage to the building. According to the probable cause affidavit, the fire is suspected to have been arson.

Upon further investigation, the officer discovered that three alleged arsons had been reported the night before. Two of those alleged arsons were dumpsters that were lit on fire and one was at the Assembly of God Church in Sandpoint. According to court records, the fire at the church was started in the main entryway but only caused minimal damage to the building.

According to the probable cause affidavit, a few officers were dispatched to a suspicious person attempting to access a gated area near the Sandpoint Library around the same time as the fires were reported. Officers made contact with the man who identified himself as Tony Nash, according to court records. Nash allegedly told officers he was attempting to “dumpster dive” and that he was from Tennessee and just trying to get home.

During their interaction with Nash, officers were called to the scene of one of the reported fires. When officers returned and again made contact with Nash, he was released since there was no evidence he had done anything wrong, court records said.

Early the next day, staff from the Bonner Gospel Mission in Ponderay called law enforcement stating a man had allegedly walked in and confessed that he had lit a church on fire, court records said. When officers arrived on the scene, they again made contact with Nash, who denied making any claims of setting fire to anything. However, due to multiple witnesses hearing Nash admit to setting a church on fire, he was arrested and charged with first-degree arson.

No hearing date has been set at this time.