Man who started fire at police department not linked to recent arsons

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PETERSBURG, Va. -- New details are being revealed about the man arrested Thursday for allegedly setting fire inside the Petersburg Police Department and if investigators believe he could be connected to 8 unsolved arson fires in the city.

Monday morning, Petersburg Police said the 69-year-old had a criminal record but no crimes related to arson.

The suspect, Joseph Lester was picked up minutes after walking out of the lobby of Police Headquarters.

Capt. Emanual Chambliss made the arrest and found that the suspect was carrying a BIC lighter in his right hand.

Capt. Chambliss said Lester walked into the lobby of Police headquarters shortly after 5:30 p.m.

Moments later officers spotted smoke in the lobby.

"To the right, there was a bank of plastic mail slots, the paperwork in that slot was set on fire, it melted, it dropped down into a waste bucket below and set that on fire,"  Capt. Chambliss said.

Lester walked out while a Lieutenant with the Police department poured a trash can full of water over the flames.

While Lester is charged with Arson he is not a suspect in 8 arson fires that targeted abandoned homes since July.

"We believe strongly that he is not involved," Capt. Chambliss said. "We've interviewed 14 people so far and out of those 14, none of them are viable suspects right now".

Lester is currently being held without bond.

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