- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2017

Officials in Mesa found themselves scrambling to replace the city’s $40,000 Christmas tree this week after a local resident set it ablaze.

The “Merry Main Christmas Tree” in Mesa was largely left a charred mess early Wednesday morning after police apprehended a 34-year-old suspect nearby.

Samuel Antone Johnson, 34, was arrested and charged with two felony counts of arson and criminal damage to the city’s display of Christmas spirit. A local Fox affiliate reported that he had admitted to starting the fire with a book of matches.

Police said the man did not disclose a motive for his actions, the station reported.

“I can’t believe anybody would do something like that,” said local business owner Richard Holz.

Steve Wright of Mesa Police Department called the crime a “kick in the gut” for those who wanted to enjoy the centerpiece of the city’s “Merry Main Street” event.

A 26-foot tall replacement tree was put into place within hours.

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