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Man arrested for arson and assault of a peace officer in Santa Maria

cristobal zarate
Santa Maria Police Department
Cristobal Zarate, 27, from Santa Maria.

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria Police Department responded to reports of a person starting fires in a church Wednesday morning.

The suspect, identified as 27-year-old Cristobal Zarate, was reportedly setting fire to objects in front of an altar in the church located on the 400 block of East Church Street in Santa Maria.

The incident took place around 9 a.m. when church staff was preparing for a church service.

The staff reportedly confronted Zarate who then walked out of the building while incoherently uttering words.

The first officers arrived at the scene within a few minutes and located Zarate at the intersection of Miller and Cook Streets.

When an officer attempted to detain him, Zarate refused to stop and told the officer not to touch him. When the officer walked toward Zarate, he splashed the officer's face and body with an unknown liquid irritant.

Fortunately, a Good Samaritan came to the officer's assistance and helped take Zarate into custody.

Neither Zarate nor the Good Samaritan were injured in the struggle. The officer sustained a minor injury from the liquid that had been thrown in his face.

The officer was transported to the Marian Regional Medical Center where he was treated for minor injuries and released.

Zarate was booked at the Santa Barbara County Jail on charges for arson, assault on a peace officer, assault with a caustic chemical, disturbing a religious meeting and vandalism. His bail was set at $50,000.

Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
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Jessica Brest

Jessica Brest is a digital journalist and assignment editor for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Jessica, click here.

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