- The Washington Times - Friday, April 2, 2004

Arson task force investigators continue to search for links between a Riverdale man now in custody and a serial arsonist who is suspected of setting 35 fires in the Washington area.

Noel Gibson, 33, was arrested Wednesday on charges of posing as a fire official at a Lanham elementary school. D.C. Superior Court records show that Mr. Gibson has been arrested a handful of times since 1991 and convicted once of misdemeanor charges of domestic violence and destruction of property in 1999. He is being held without bond and is expected to appear in federal court in Greenbelt at 3 p.m. Monday on charges of lying to a federal official.

Investigators were keeping quiet yesterday on details of the investigation, during which Mr. Gibson told task force members that he was a Fairfax County firefighter. According to an affidavit made public Thursday, Mr. Gibson had a Prince George’s County Fire Department fire coat and a patch from the defunct Hillside volunteer fire company in his possession when he was arrested outside his Riverdale apartment. Investigators also recovered the identification card of a Prince George’s County firefighter.

It remains uncertain if Mr. Gibson was ever a firefighter. According to arrest records from 1998 through 2000, Mr. Gibson gave an Arlington address.

Capt. George Williams, a spokesman for the Arlington County Fire Department, said he was unaware of Mr. Gibson serving as a firefighter there. He said a more thorough check would not be completed until next week.

Before living in Arlington, Mr. Gibson lived in an apartment complex in the 2500 block of Naylor Road SE.

Marcus Banks, a barber who has lived in the building for more than 20 years, said Mr. Gibson has not resided there since 1998. The suspect did not display any suspicious behavior during his time there, Mr. Banks said.

“I used to see him coming in and out of the building,” Mr. Banks, 28, said. “He’d say ‘what’s up,’ but that’s about it.”

D.C. fire officials would not comment yesterday on whether a deliberately set fire in November 2001 at the Naylor Road address could be linked to Mr. Gibson. Calls were referred to the Prince George’s County Fire Department, which is spearheading the arson task force’s investigation.

A spokesman for the fire department referred calls to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, where a spokeswoman would only say that the “investigation is ongoing.”

Investigators expect a search of a car used by Mr. Gibson will yield evidence of “possession of a destructive device,” similar to those used in the spate of arsons, according to a six-page affidavit prepared by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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