Fire investigator weighs in on Vincennes arson arrest

James Beamon, Provided Photo
James Beamon, Provided Photo

VINCENNES, Ind. (WTHI) – One day after news broke an arrest had been made into four Vincennes fires, an Indiana State Fire Marshal representative was on hand at the Vincennes City Fire department wrapping up his portion of the investigation. Matt Wells spoke to News 10 about the lengthy three year investigation.

“We went back as far as 2011 so you have a lot of time, a lot of people, a lot of buildings, a lot of large loss that impacted the community greatly, so it was quite an extensive investigation and took some time,” said Wells. Wells explained that a quality investigation takes time and requires lots of community interaction and involvement.

Wells stated three of the four fires took place along Washington Avenue in Vincennes and all had common factors. Due to the pending court proceedings, Wells was not at liberty to discuss what connected the fires to the suspect, James Beamon, 22, of Vincennes.

“There’s all kinds of stuff we use as evidence, I don’t want to go in particular detail about what stuff we looked for,” said Wells. Aside from Beamon’s arrest, Wells explained that Knox is his busiest county of the several he serves. That theme was corroborated by Vincennes Fire’s Battalion Chief Tony Jarrell.

Jarrell told News 10 Vincennes Fire responds to around 3,000 calls per year; one of the busiest departments in the state. Getting Beamon off the streets, Jarrell said, is a plus for the fire fighting community and city patrons.

“There wasn’t probably a day here in the firefighters lives here that we weren’t concerned about it, not only for our safety, but for the public’s safety also,” said Jarrell.

Investigators say James Beamon admitted four arsons

-Gimbel Bond Building, 210 Main Street, on December 17, 2011.

-Kohlhouse General Contracting, (owned by David Shelton) 1241 Washington Avenue, June 3, 2013.

-Pine Box, 1043 Washington Avenue, March 23, 2014.

-C & G Cleaners, 1825 Washington Avenue, May 21, 2014.

According to Vincennes Fire Documents, Beamon also confessed to an attempted arson at The Attic, 1721 Washington Avenue, May 22, 2014.

Coincidentally, fire victim David Shelton, announced on his public information facebook page on May 22, that all of the Washington Avenue fires seemed suspicious. Shelton would later see his suspicion turn to fruition, when he was informed that investigators arrested James Beamon for arson.

“It just made sense to me, I don’t believe in coincidences,” added Shelton. “I’m thinking you know, after he set the fire here at my location, where a Vincennes Fire Fighter was injured, I can’t help but think if he even had a shred of human decency, he would have stopped then, but no he kept on going and setting more fires after that,”

The business owner told News 10, at the time of his fire, the cause was ruled undetermined. A witness account was reported stating that mens’ voices were heard around the time the Kohlhouse blaze started, and subsequently, vehicles were heard leaving the scene.

“I hope he [Beamon] gets the help he needs,” said Shelton.

According to investigators, Beamon’s reign began in December of 2011, with a fire at Gimbel Bond Building on Main Street. News 10 records show, the estimated cleanup following the Gimbel burn at around $150,000. Having Beamon in custody, fire fighters explained, is a sigh of relief.

“That was a very historic old building in Vincennes and we lost part of history in the Vincennes area,” said Jarrell.

“I’m just glad he’s off the streets,” said Shelton.

Beamon is charged with four B felony counts of arson, and one B felony count of attempted arson. Fire investigators explained, that an injury sustained by a fire fighter in the Kohlhouse Building fire could increase Beamon’s charges to A felony arson.

It was not immediately clear Friday if Beamon had been scheduled for an initial court hearing.


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