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Security increased at Santa Maria Courthouse following fire

One person was arrested
Santa Maria courthouse fire 2.JPG
Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 21, 2023

Security has been increased at the Santa Maria courthouse after a fire over the weekend.

Darrel Parker, chief executive officer for Santa Barbara Superior Court, says he received a call from the courthouse’s security guard Saturday night saying someone had broken inside.

The suspect reportedly went into Department 8 and sprayed some type of lighter fluid on the desk in the middle of the court preceding area before igniting the fire.

Parker says while the fire was contained to a small area, the majority of the damage is from water due to the sprinkler system that put out the fire.

Computer equipment and furniture was damaged. Parker says water also leaked into the basement, potentially damaging thousands of files. He says only some of the files were backed up and adds that cleanup and restoration could take up to a year.

“There are over 70 cameras on this campus that capture every movement around the court campus. In fact, the defendant was captured on film lighting the chair on fire and breaking through the doors. It's not a question of who it was,” Parker told KSBY.

Santa Maria police responded and arrested the suspect, identified as Eric Spies, 31.

Parker says while they don't know the motive behind the incident, he says Spies had received a notice to appear at the courthouse next month.

Courtroom operations for Department 8 have been moved into another courtroom for the time being.