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Santa Maria Police arrest man suspected of setting church on fire, assaulting a peace officer

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jan 01, 2020

Santa Maria Police arrest a man who reportedly attempted to set fire to a church and later assaulted a peace officer.

Reports of the incident came in at around 9:11 a.m. Wednesday on the 400 block of E. Church Street.

Police say a man was setting objects on fire in front of the altar inside the church. At this time, church staff was preparing for church service, and when the man was approached he left the building.

When officers arrived they located a person matching the suspect's description walking near the intersection of Miller and Cook Street. When the officer attempted to detain the subject, he reportedly refused to stop and demanded the officer not touch him.

As the officer continued toward him trying to detain him, the suspect splashed the officer's face and upper body with an unknown liquid irritant and physically resisted the officer's efforts to arrest him, according to police.

Police say a good samaritan came to the officer's assist and helped take the suspect into custody.

The suspect is identified as who was later identified as Cristobal Zarate, 27, of Santa Maria.

Police say the officer sustained a minor injury that was caused by exposure to the unknown liquid thrown on him. The officer was transported to the Marian Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

Zarate was transported to the Santa Barbara County Jail and booked on arson, felony assault on a peace officer, felony assault with a caustic chemical, disturbing a religious meeting, and vandalism charges. His bail was set at $50,000.