San Diego

Suspected Arsonist Pleads Not Guilty to Setting Fire in Camp Pendleton

The defendant smirked in court when the prosecutor spoke of his lengthy criminal history

A man suspected of arson pleaded not guilty to setting a fire that scorched 85 acres near Camp Pendleton Tuesday.

Jose Antonio Torres, 35, is also facing assault charges in Los Angeles in a separate legal case. While pleading not guilty to starting a fire near a golf course in Camp Pendleton, Torres appeared very nonchalant about the charges.

Once the prosecutor began to read his past criminal history, his overall demeanor changed and he visibly smirked in court.

"We saw a guy cut through the golf course, and about 10 minutes later, we saw a little fire start up," said Jay Miller, a witness of the fire.

On June 14, crews worked rapidly to put out the brush fire. They worked with ground crews and helicopters to douse and extinguish the flames. Torres was later arrested in connection with the fire after several witnesses told investigators they saw a man running from the area.

Although no homes were damaged in the fire, residents near the area were asked to voluntarily evacuate. One firefighter suffered minor injuries to her hand.

Witnesses say they saw the suspect run through the golf course. Moments later, soaring flames and billowing smoke spread throughout Camp Pendleton.

His bail was initially set to $75,000, but a judge increased it to $175,000 at the arraignment because of his lengthy criminal record.

Torres is due in court again later this month.

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