A Broken Arrow man accused of setting fire to the Sherwin-Williams store on Park Hill Road last year was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment, with three years supervised release.
According to the indictment, on or about April 26, 2017, Matthew Evan Smith, 37, "maliciously damaged and attempted to damage and destroy, by means of fire, the Sherwin-Williams Paint Store located in Tahlequah, which was used in an activity affecting interstate commerce."
Reports state that when firefighters arrived at the scene, the building and its contents had already suffered extensive fire damage. Upon investigation, they discovered the electric meter had been removed from the building prior to their arrival. That is a safety measure generally taken by firefighters immediately when they get to a fire scene. The investigation that ensued showed there were multiple origins for the fire.
An inventory of the contents revealed that several items, including ladders and paint sprayers, had been stolen from the store sometime before the fire was started. It was later discovered that several items were pawned by Smith within days of the blaze.
"Arson investigations are difficult and time-consuming," said U.S. Attorney Brian J. Kuester. "It takes determination, diligence and sometimes patience to solve and successfully prosecute people who commit arson. Those virtues were evident in the law enforcement professionals that brought this investigation to its just conclusion with the defendant being sentenced to the Bureau of Prisons."
Smith pleaded guilty in federal court to arson in May.
The charges arose from an investigation by the Tahlequah Police Department, Tahlequah Fire Department, Broken Arrow Police Department, the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal, Cherokee County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"Utilizing arson to mask another crime is an act of violence," said ATF Special Agent Jeffrey C. Boshek II. "The augmented financial loss and potential of harm to the public and emergency responders is particularly troubling in this case given Mr. Smith is a former firefighter."
U.S. District Judge Ronald A. White resided over the hearing. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean Burris prosecuted the case.
The defendant will remain in custody pending transportation to the designated federal facility at which the non-paroleable sentence will be served.