Agent testifies at Utah electrician’s arson trial

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - An electrician charged with arson in a downtown Salt Lake City fire contacted a federal investigator days after the February blaze to offer information, the investigator testified Wednesday in federal court.

Special Agent David Allen with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said 34-year-old Dustin Bowman agreed to meet and discuss surveillance video from the Feb. 9 fire at an unfinished apartment complex.

No one was in the building at the time of the blaze, which caused $6 million in damages, and no one was hurt. Flames from the nighttime fire could be seen for miles and drew hundreds of onlookers.

During a four-hour interview with police on Feb. 14, Bowman changed his story several times before admitting he started the fire, Allen said.

Bowman has asked a judge to throw out the statements he made to police. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart is not expected to rule on the request until later this summer.

Bowman’s attorney, Jamie Zenger of the federal public defender’s office, said Wednesday that her client was not properly informed of his Miranda rights.

Bowman, who has pleaded not guilty to a federal arson charge, appeared in court wearing a gray and white striped jail jumpsuit with shackles around his wrists and ankles. He appeared clean shaven and with his hair closely cut, a contrast to the mustache, goatee and long hair he had the night he was arrested.

Attorneys for both sides played audio and video recordings of the interviews during Wednesday’s hearing.

Allen was one of 20 investigators brought in to help local law enforcement following the blaze. He said Bowman accompanied his boss, another electrician who was asked to review surveillance video from the construction site.

Bowman initially denied he was the person wearing a hoodie in the footage, but later sent text messages to Allen offering information about the case, Allen said.

Zenger noted that despite meeting to talk with Bowman in a fast-food restaurant parking lot, Allen and another investigator drove him to the fire site and to a secured law-enforcement office to interview him.

Video of the interviews showed Bowman acknowledging he was free to leave and offering to do what he could to help investigators.

Other parts of the video showed Bowman getting nervous and saying he might be to going to jail. Zenger noted the footage showed officers giving Bowman an incomplete Miranda warning.

The officer started the incomplete warning casually by saying, “You’ve seen ‘CSI,’ right?”

Later during the interview, investigators read Bowman his rights again and had him sign a waiver after he admitted to starting a small fire that got out of control.

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