William Morales charged with setting Lompoc mental health clinic on fire with people inside
A Lompoc man has pleaded guilty to arson for setting fire Aug. 2 to a Lompoc mental health clinic with people still trapped inside. He agreed to a prison term of five years, prosecutors said.
William Morales, who had been charged with arson and attempted murder, reached a plea bargain with prosecutors to plead guilty to arson in exchange for them dropping the other charge, Deputy Public Defender Madison Whitmore said Thursday.
Mr. Morales, 36, appeared in court Wednesday for the start of his preliminary hearing when he and prosecutors made the deal.
“Yesterday, the defendant William Morales pled guilty to a violation of 451(b), arson of an inhabited structure for a five-year prison sentence,” DDA Whitmore said last Thursday. “He is being sentenced on Oct. 19 in Lompoc court.
“The other charges will be dismissed in exchange for the plea bargain. Once he is sentenced, he will go to prison for five years on the 451, which is a violent felony, and he will be required to register as an arsonist.”
Lompoc police officers were dispatched to the mental health clinic in the 1000 block of East Ocean Avenue at about 12:43 p.m. Aug. 2 regarding a man who was allegedly attempting to assault staff, Lompoc police said.
While officers were en 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, was 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.