A Lompoc man has been sentenced to five years in state prison for setting fire to a Lompoc mental health clinic while people were trapped inside, screaming for help.
William Morales, 36, pleaded guilty to arson of an inhabited structure in a plea bargain with prosecutors who agreed to drop other charges, including attempted murder, against him in exchange for the guilty plea.
He was sentenced Wednesday. His crime is a violent felony, and he will be required to register as an arsonist.
“I do believe it was an appropriate outcome for his case,” Deputy District Attorney Madison Whitmore told the News-Press Thursday.
It’s a future the defendant obviously couldn’t foresee on Aug. 2 when he assaulted clinic staff members, set the building on fire and greeted arriving officers by throwing a large piece of wood at them, striking a patrol vehicle instead.
Instead of obeying the officers’ orders to lie on the ground, he threw another piece of wood at them, retreated inside the clinic, located in the 1000 block of East Ocean Avenue, and slammed the door shut.
That’s when officers heard the screams.
People were yelling that the clinic was on fire. Forcing their way inside, officers confronted Mr. Morales again, ordering him to the floor. This time he complied and officers took him into custody.
He remained combative, however, even as officers took him to the emergency room for medical clearance, even kicking an officer in the head in the ER.
The clinic, meanwhile, was evacuated as the flames inside were growing. Officers knocked down the flames, and responding Lompoc firefighters extinguished the fire. The blaze caused more than $10,000 damage.
Officers remaining at the scene interviewed staff members, who told them some victims had barricaded themselves in a room to get away from Mr. Morales’ violent behavior, only to be trapped inside after he set it on fire.
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 later 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.email: firstname.lastname@example.org