AFD: Resident lights 6 fires inside northeast Austin senior center, charged with arson

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Six fires were set on the third floor of a northeast Austin senior center Tuesday and a resident was arrested in connection with the fires, according to an affidavit.

AFD responded to the Harris Branch Senior Living building, located at 12433 Dessau Road, and said the combination of the building’s sprinklers and firefighters were able to put the fires out quickly.

Willie Lutheran Shields, 61 (APD photo)

According to the affidavit, AFD said Willie Lutheran Shields, 61, was responsible for lighting three bags of trash on fire throughout the floor, two near doors of residents’ apartments and one outside his own apartment. Investigators also said Shields lit three small fires inside his apartment.

The affidavit said one of the trash bags was in front of a resident’s apartment that had a “negative history,” with Shields. The person who lives in the apartment told investigators Shields had previously made “threats of physical harm including fire” toward them. The affidavit said apartment management staff confirmed those threats.

  • AFD said "mutiple" fires were put out at the Harris Branch Senior Living on Dessau Road on Tuesday in northeast Austin.
  • AFD said "mutiple" fires were put out at the Harris Branch Senior Living on Dessau Road on Tuesday in northeast Austin.
  • AFD said "mutiple" fires were put out at the Harris Branch Senior Living on Dessau Road on Tuesday in northeast Austin.
  • AFD said "mutiple" fires were put out at the Harris Branch Senior Living on Dessau Road on Tuesday in northeast Austin.

According to the affidavit, Shields told investigators he started the fires “out of anger and no one helping him through several issues.”

AFD said the fire caused $500,000 worth of damage to the building and displaced residents in three apartments.

No injuries were reported. Shields faces a charge of first-degree arson. According to jail records, he’s currently in custody at Travis County Jail. Attorney information for Shields was not available.

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