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Police nab teens suspected of arson

Merced Police arrested four teenagers Thursday night, all on suspicion of felony arson.

Authorities responded to the 1500 block of Ellen Court around 7:40 p.m. after a caller reported a fight in the area, police said in a statement.

Responding officers found five or six teenagers standing by a cluster of mailboxes in a courtyard at the Merced Apartments. When police approached them, the teenagers scattered, Merced Police Cmdr. Floyd Higdon said.

Police discovered that a fire had been lit inside the mailboxes. They managed to chase down and arrest four of the teenagers, one of whom was carrying a lighter, Higdon said.

Police arrested three 18-year-olds — James Edward Navaro, Juan Jeremiah Avila and Angel Michael Garcia — and one 16-year-old boy who police declined to identify. All are suspected of felony arson, misdemeanor trespassing and resisting an officer. They could also face additional charges for alleged gang involvement.

Higdon said that just because no one was hurt in the incident doesn’t mean it wasn’t serious. “What they’re suspected of is a felony,” he said. “With the fire season we’ve had this year, there’s not a whole lot of sympathy for people starting fires. It could have easily spread to the apartments.”

The 18-year-olds were booked into Merced County Jail, with bail set at $105,750. The 16-year-old was sent to juvenile hall.The case has been forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office.

Anyone with information regarding this incident should call Scott Skinner at (209) 385-4702 or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725.