William Morales, 35, pleads not guilty to arson, attempted murder
A Lompoc man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of attempted murder and arson connected to an Aug. 2 fire that he allegedly started in a Lompoc mental health clinic room with people trapped inside.
William Morales, 35, appeared in Superior Court in Lompoc for his arraignment Wednesday.
“We are returning on Oct. 5 for a preliminary hearing setting,” prosecutor Madison Whitmore said.
Lompoc police officers arrested Mr. Morales, 36, on suspicion of attempted murder, arson and other charges related to the fire.
Officers were dispatched to the mental health clinic in the 1000 block of East Ocean Avenue at about 12:43 p.m. regarding a man who was allegedly attempting to assault staff, Lompoc police said.
While officers were on route, dispatch advised them that the man was allegedly trying to set the building on fire.
Officers responded with lights and sirens and located Mr. Morales in the 100 block of North Third Street. He was holding a large piece of wood, which police said he threw at officers when they exited their patrol cars. The stick did not hit an officer, but it did strike a patrol vehicle.
Police said Mr. Morales refused their orders to get on the ground, instead throwing another piece of wood at them. He then retreated inside the building and slammed the door shut.
Officers then heard people inside the building yelling that the clinic was on fire. They forced their way into the building and again ordered Mr. Morales to the ground. This time he complied and officers took him into custody.
He became combative, however, and police took him to the emergency room for medical clearance. He remained combative in the ER, allegedly kicking an officer in the head.
The building, meanwhile, was evacuated as the flames inside were growing. Officers knocked down the flames with their extinguishers. Responding Lompoc firefighters finished extinguishing the fire.
Staff told officers that some victims had barricaded themselves to get away from Mr. Morales’ alleged violent behavior before he allegedly set the room on fire where the victims were located. The damage from the alleged arson was estimated to exceed $10,000.
Once he was medically cleared, Mr. Morales was transported to the Santa Barbara County Jail, where he was booked on suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, arson of an inhabited dwelling, felony vandalism, felony resisting, criminal threats, resisting an arrest and a misdemeanor warrant.
Mr. Morales, also known as William Ricardo Ibarra, is charged in an eight-count felony complaint, including “serious felonies” of arson and attempted murder of three specific women, criminal threats, assault with personal use of a deadly weapon (the piece of wood) and resisting arrest.
He is charged with special allegations of committing the offense while out on bail or his own recognizance, that he committed a serious/violent/registerable sex offense felony, and that aggravating factors existed in that the crime involved great violence and great threat of bodily harm.