A Spokane Valley resident apparently angry at having to wear face masks is accused of setting fires at two businesses in town over the coverings, including one ignited by a Molotov cocktail.
Nicholas Afflerbaugh, 33, was arrested Sept. 3 at his apartment on suspicion of second-degree arson, second-degree malicious placement of explosives and third-degree malicious mischief in connection with an Aug. 30 fire at cannabis dispensary Locals Canna House. It appears those charges have been amended to second-degree arson and possessing/manufacturing an incendiary, according to Spokane County Superior Court’s website.
“We certainly hope that this young man gets the help he needs before somebody is really hurt,” said Teresa Akers, owner of Believe Bride, the other Spokane Valley business where Afflerbaugh is accused of setting a fire.
Afflerbaugh appeared in court Tuesday and Thursday, and is set for an arraignment Tuesday.
In the incident at Locals Canna House, Spokane Valley Fire Department Assistant Fire Marshal Casey Parr found a rock thrown through the window of the business at 9616 E. Sprague Ave., according to the court documents filed Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court. Parr also located two improvised incendiary devices lying on the concrete floor inside.
The second device ignited on the concrete floor against a display case, the documents said. There was soot on the floor and charring to the bottom of the wooden display case. There also was a burned blue cloth face mask lying on the floor next to it.
It is believed the face mask was the wick for the second improvised device. The fire went out without causing major damage or additional fires, the documents said.
Afflerbaugh was identified on video surveillance around the time the fire was set, the documents said.
The documents said Afflerbaugh, in June, lit the same types of masks on fire in the parking lot, on the sidewalk in front of, and near the building of Believe Bride, 306 S. Pines Road.
One of the fires caught the building on fire, and Afflerbaugh was charged with second-degree arson.
His family told police that Afflerbaugh has autism and has a “strong aversion and anger” against face masks, the documents said.
Akers said she found numerous blue masks that were ignited in her business’s parking lot over a two- or three-week span in June. She said the bridal shop’s video surveillance showed a man igniting something and then running away.
Then, one of the ignitions caught the business’s doormat on fire, and it spread to the building, causing about $1,500 in damages, Akers said. Those repairs were completed.
Akers said she does not believe Afflerbaugh was ever in her shop, and she doesn’t think she and her employees ever had contact with him.
She said she requires masks to be worn in her business, in compliance with the state mask mandate to stop the spread of COVID-19. Akers said her store has always followed the state’s mask orders.
“Where that hostility comes from, I really have no idea,” Akers said.
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