One week ago, on Tuesday, April 27, a Seattle man told police that he lit the Lower Queen Anne based Ride the Ducks building on fire in an attempt to dissuade two men who he claimed were chasing him from following him into the building. This week the King County Prosecutor’s Office charged Dean Robert Oleson with second degree arson, stating that he “knowingly and maliciously” started a fire and explosion that caused an estimated $70,000 in damage to the building.
(Photo courtesy of KING5, reposted with permission).
As we reported last week, Oleson, 50, told police that he ran into the building where he is employed (located at 516 Broad St.) early in the morning on the 27th because he was being chased by two unknown men who had followed him from his apartment several blocks away. According to the SPD Blotter, Oleson told police that he immediately locked the door and set the alarm after entering the building, but that the two men continued to break in through the windows and one went onto the roof to cut the telephone lines (explaining why he couldn’t call 911). Oleson then told police that he intentionally set a fire on the second floor in the hopes of setting off the fire alarm, which would alert the Fire Department and police, who would then come to help him.
The suspect stated that plan wasn’t working fast enough, so he jumped out the second story window and ran to the 200 Block of 5th Avenue North where he called 911.
The SPD report stated that “there was no indication that the phone lines had been cut or that any windows had been broken,” and one witness who was at a nearby bus stop at the time of the incident reported that “he heard or saw no one trying to get into the business and he heard nothing else unusual.”
Oleson reiterated the story to detectives investigating the incident, and further details in the charging documents reveal that he may have been truly under the impression that he was being chased. From the charging documents:
“Oleson said he first saw a shoe sticking out from under his bed. Oleson yelled at them, telling them to leave. Oleson left the aparment. Oleson returned and said he saw two people under his bed and then two people hiding under clothes in his closet. Oleson said he left his apartment telling them he was callng the police. Oleson said they chased him into the Ride the Ducks business where they continued to pursue him, so he set the fire to call the fire department. When questioned about drug use, Oleson eventually said he had smoked Meth earlier in the day.”
Oleson’s arraignment is currently set for Friday, May 14. In the charging documents Deputy Prosecutor Tuyen Lam requested that bail be set at $125,000, noting Oleson’s prior criminal history: convictions for Attempted VUCSA, Property Destruction, and a DUI which was amended to Negligent Driving.
“There is great concern he may have mental health or substance abuse problems given his admissions made to law enforcement,” Lam wrote. “The defendant has had 5 warrants since 1985 issued in King County alone.”