FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 6, 2018
Contact: Scott Alonso, 925-957-8638
Serial Arsonist Convicted by Contra Costa County Jury
Martinez, Calif. – On December 4, a Contra Costa County jury found defendant James Bishop III of Pittsburg guilty of 31 arson related felonies. Bishop was arrested in May 2017 by the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (Con Fire) Fire Investigation Unit, the Concord Police Department, and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office after a months-long investigation.
Bishop now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in state prison. Sentencing will occur on January 25, 2018 in front of the Honorable Laurel Brady - Department 31 of the Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez. Restitution for the victims will also be decided on that date. Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Andrea Tavenier prosecuted the case on behalf of the People. The case originated in the Office’s Special Operations Division.
“James Bishop terrorized his community and posed a significant and substantial danger to his victims and the citizens of this county. He chose to ignite vehicles in the dead of night, most of which were parked in areas where the fire was likely to spread,” said DDA Tavenier. “In three instances, the fires he started spread to the homes of his innocent, sleeping victims. Frankly, it’s a miracle that no one was hurt. This complex case could not have been successfully prosecuted without the tireless and collaborative efforts of investigating agencies county-wide.”
In the spring of 2017, Con Fire investigators began noticing a pattern of suspicious vehicle fires along the Interstate 680 and State Highway 4 corridors. A serial arsonist appeared to be setting vehicles on fire between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. by pouring a flammable liquid in the vehicle’s windshield wiper tray and igniting it with a match or lighter.
The targeted vehicles were each parked outside the owner’s residence, either directly in front of the garage or (less commonly) out on the street.
Neighbors provided crucial evidence to Con Fire investigators, in several instances sharing surveillance videos that captured a suspicious vehicle in the vicinity at the time of the fires. Ultimately, these videos led to the identification of Bishop as owner of that car. Subsequent investigation revealed Bishop was the individual responsible for the fires.
In total, Bishop was convicted of intentionally setting fire to 14 vehicles and causing fire damage to four residences, three of which were occupied by sleeping residents at the time of the fires. His charged conduct spanned the cities of Antioch, Benicia, Brentwood, Lafayette, Concord, Martinez, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, and Walnut Creek.
The District Attorney’s Office would like to thank Con Fire, the Concord Police Department, the Lafayette Police Department, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab, and each of the participating local law enforcement agencies for their assistance during this investigation.
Case information: People v. James Bishop III, Docket Number 05-171999-6.