BELFAST, Maine — A Union Street man has been accused of setting a Mercedes-Benz car on fire at the end of June and taking photos of it as it burned to post on his Facebook page, according to a Belfast Police Department official.
Asgard Tarick Gilbert, 36, was arrested Monday morning on a Class A felony charge of arson, said Detective Bryan Cunningham. A Class A crime conviction is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
The charge was brought after a two-week police investigation that included scrutinizing surveillance tape from Belfast Variety and seizing Gilbert’s cell phones and computer.
The fire first had been discovered by police officers who were parked nearby in the early morning hours of June 28. The officers suddenly heard a popping sound and then the crackle of flames, Cunningham said.
They went to investigate and found a 1982 Mercedes burning on River Avenue — and were surprised to see they weren’t alone.
“Mr. Gilbert was standing there snapping pictures,” Cunningham said.
“He told the police that he had smelled burning rubber when he was at Belfast Variety on High Street and had gone to check it out. He then said he found the Mercedes with what he described to be a small campfire on the back seat,” Cunningham said.
“He just happened to come right to it, and instead of calling it in, he took pictures,” Cunningham said.
Gilbert also allegedly knew the owner of the burning vehicle, but didn’t inform that person, either, the detective said.
The car had been unused for a year, and its battery had been unhooked, Cunningham said. Its owner had been trying to sell it for $700, and it was totaled after the fire, he said.
The next day, Gilbert returned to the scene and took more pictures of the charred Mercedes and put them in a Facebook photo album labeled Warzone, according to the detective. He also described the scene to the fire investigator and Cunningham as similar to Somalia.
“It struck us as kind of odd,” Cunningham said.
Intrigued, the officers listed Gilbert as a person of interest in the fire and obtained a search warrant for his cell phones and computers. While at Gilbert’s home last weekend, the officers also seized four marijuana plants they found there, the detective said.
Cunningham also found that Gilbert made a suspicious appearance in the surveillance tape from Belfast Variety. The nighttime images show Gilbert on his bicycle at 12:30 a.m. with a gas can or some other container, Cunningham said, “fiddling around” the convenience store’s kerosene station.
“There’s no question it’s him,” he said.
Gilbert was arrested Monday without incident on a warrant and was taken to Waldo County Jail, where he was being held on surety bail of $10,000 or cash bail of $2,000, according to a bail official.
He had written on his Facebook page on June 29 that he had been interviewed twice by a detective and the fire investigator.
“Not(e) to self,” he wrote. “Witnessing something at 230 am then racing off on your mt bike not good idea. In fact if you do witness a crime my advice is to close your eyes click your heels and say there is no place like home 3 times.”