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Police: Eviction notice led man to torch apartment office

LARGO — When Michael Thomas Howard learned he was being evicted from his apartment, he warned a friend that "something might happen," and drove to his ex-wife's house to pick up gunpowder.

That's according to Largo police, who accused Howard, 51, of setting fire early Saturday morning to the administrative office of Bay Pointe Apartments at 2770 Roosevelt Blvd.

After learning of the eviction, Howard ventured three miles away to the house he owns with his ex-wife and retrieved the powder from a safe, police said. He told another witness that he was going to make a "smoke bomb."

The fire broke out just after 3 a.m. Saturday. Not long after, Howard told the same witness that he had been smoking with a torch at the apartment office, the report said.

As firefighters worked to douse the blaze, Howard started to complain about his eviction to a Bay Pointe property manager who was summoned to the scene, police said. The fire left damage to the east wall of the building.

Howard was arrested Monday on a charge of second-degree arson following an investigation by Largo police.

During their investigation, detectives came upon a 2012 Hurricane motor scooter that had been left at Howard's ex-wife's house. Detectives learned the scooter was stolen and questioned Howard, who first claimed he borrowed the bike, then claimed a friend had left it at the property, police said.

Howard was also charged with grand theft. He remained jailed Tuesday night on $15,000 bail.

Police: Eviction notice led man to torch apartment office 03/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 8:19pm]
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