Police have arrested an Occupy Fort Collins protester in connection with a $10 million arson fire that damaged dozens of condominiums and businesses in Fort Collins.It's times like these when organizers like to steer clear of the mess they've created. Sorry, too late.
Benjamin David Gilmore, 29, was arrested on Thursday night on suspicion of arson, burglary and criminal mischief.
On Oct. 24, a fire started at 3:30 a.m. in a four-story apartment complex under construction. The fire spread to the occupied Penny Flats condominium and retail building next door.
The fire at Penny Flats caused heavy fire damage to the fourth floor and roof, and heavy smoke and water damage to the first, second and third floors, according to Poudre Fire Authority spokesman Patrick Love.
Damage was estimated at $10 million.
After the hearing, several Occupy Fort Collins protesters distanced the movement from Gilmore.
"He may have stopped by the protest, but he is in no way a direct relation to our movement," said protester Julia Crisafi. "We are peaceful protesters."
"One person's actions do not represent this group as a whole," said protester Andrew Stover. "Non-violence is the way to change."
Gilmore joined the Occupy Fort Collins movement in mid-October.
“He showed up on the 3rd or 4th day,” said Rich Crisler, who identified himself as the media coordinator for Occupy Fort Collins.
Crisler said he doesn't believe Gilmore started the fire.
“He had no reason to do this,” Crisler said. “They’re [investigators] just looking for a scapegoat.”
Crisler said Gilmore owns a honey business. Crisler said Gilmore is very kind, soft-spoken and wants to help people.
“He’s not an arsonist. I’ve dealt with people like this,” said Crisler, who said he was trained as a psychologist. “Nothing would make me think of him doing something like this.”