DUBOIS – Additional information has been released regarding two suspects in a severe arson fire in DuBois.
According to affidavits of probable cause, filed with District Judge Patrick Ford’s office Feb. 10, Zachary Thomas Coombs, 20, 1025 Big Run/Prescottville Rd., Punxsutawney, and Timothy James Young, 19, 1406 Million Dollar Hwy., Kersey, are facing multiple charges relating to a major fire at the “Gibby’s” building at 40 N. Franklin St., DuBois, Jan. 5.
According to the affidavits, Coombs has been charged by the DuBois City police with arson, causing or risking a catastrophe, burglary, criminal trespass, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, recklessly endangering another person and two counts of criminal mischief.
Young has been charged by the DuBois City police with burglary and three counts of criminal mischief.
According to the affidavits, at 10:18 a.m., Jan. 5, about 141 firefighters from DuBois City, Sandy Township and Reynoldsville fire departments were dispatched to fight the fire at the Gibby’s building. State Police Fire Marshall Matt Powell also responded to the fire and was told by the firefighters that a door on the side of the building facing the Giant Eagle store appeared to have been pried open.
Powell and DuBois City police officers were able to obtain security video from other businesses, which are located near the Gibby’s building. The owner of the building reported that spray paint markings reading “bomb” and “DYT” were painted on the building within the past three days. Police had received reports where the same markings had been painted on other buildings in the area.
On Jan. 6, police were contacted by a witness who said he had information relating to the fire.
The witness told police that the person responsible for starting the fire was staying at his house. The witness said the same markings had been spray painted on his daughter’s bedroom wall by Coombs. The witness also told police that Coombs had shown up with a bag of items the morning of the fire, including several comic books, a knife engraved with a train, a flashlight and costume jewelry.
Police spoke again to the owner of the building who said he had a box of comic books stored on the first floor of his building.
The police went to the witness’ house and asked Coombs to come back to the station to speak to them. Combs placed a baseball cap on his head, which had the word “bomb” written on the bill. Police also found a black bag on the floor, which contained a red flashlight, tools and costume jewelry. The witness said those items did not belong to anyone in his family and Coombs denied owning any of the items, which were photographed and collected.
Police spoke to Coombs at the police station about the vandalism and told Coombs that the same markings were on the building, which burned on Jan. 5. Police also noted the same word was on Coombs’ hat. Coombs allegedly told police that “bomb” was his “tag” and that he had been described as a “short fuse bomb” since childhood.
Coombs allegedly told police that he and Young crawled out the second floor window of the house he was staying at shortly after midnight Jan. 5. He said the two of them walked to meet a former girlfriend at the Garden Grove Townhouses. Coombs said the woman returned several of his old belongings, including some old comic books he had gotten when his grandfather passed away. He said they then walked back to the house and arrived around 2:30 a.m.
Police confronted Coombs about inconsistencies in his story and that they knew Coombs had “tagged” several buildings.
Coombs allegedly admitted “tagging” the Gibby’s building about a year ago, near the garage door. However, according to police, Coombs allegedly changed his story, saying he left his belongings in a parking lot and walked with Young to Sheetz. He said along the way, Young “tagged” a Verizon building with “DYT” as they walked. Coombs said he himself “tagged” the DuSan Ambulance garage. He said Young went inside Sheetz to buy a soda, then Young “tagged” Sheetz and both Coombs and Young “tagged” the Day Spa DuBois. Coombs said they then went back to the Garden Grove Townhouses.
Coombs was questioned about “DYT” being “tagged” on a vehicle at Kurt Johnson Auto Sales and that the owner of the Gibby’s building reported the building had been “tagged” within the past three days.
Coombs allegedly changed his story again, telling police he and Young had gone to the Giant Eagle store earlier that day and they noticed the door of the Gibby’s building was swinging open as they left the parking lot. Coombs said he and Young returned to the building later to “tag” it, but never went inside. Coombs allegedly told police he would never go inside the building because of all the “bad things” that happened to his friends inside. Coombs allegedly told police that he told Young the building should “be burnt to the ground.”
When police asked if Coombs had tried to burn down the building, Coombs allegedly answered “it’s still standing, isn’t it,” and “If I wanted to burn the building down I would do it right.” Coombs denied starting any fires.
Police continued to question Coombs about inconsistencies in his story, and he allegedly admitted to going inside the building through the side door, which Coombs claimed was open. Coombs allegedly admitted taking several items from the building. Coombs said he and Young were lighting spray paint cans and that the flames came back toward the nozzle, so they threw the can before it could “blow up” and left the building.
Police then interviewed the witness who said Coombs and Young snuck out of the house between midnight and 1 a.m. The witness allegedly told police that Coombs told her that he was going to Gibby’s and that he was going to take a piece of rebar to break the lock. The witness told police that Coombs and Young told her that they had taken comic books, a knife and other items from Gibby’s and that they had spray painted buildings and vehicles.
The witness said Young allegedly told her that Coombs had started a fire near the lockers inside the Gibby’s building where the floor was caved in using lighter fluid, and spray painted “bomb” on the building. Later that morning, Coombs allegedly told the witness that Gibby’s was on fire.
On Jan. 7, Young had stopped by the police station because he heard the officers were looking for him. Young allegedly told police that he and Coombs left the house that night with the intention to break into Gibby’s. Young allegedly told police that the building was locked with a pad lock, but that Coombs used a screw driver to pry open the door.
Young said they looked around the entire building and found a flashlight. He said Coombs found a can of lighter fluid and told Young they could use it to burn the building down. Young said he and Coombs found 16 cans of a jell substance and Coombs lit the jell near the lockers inside the building and that Coombs had allegedly told him that he had put pallets on top of the flames before they left the building.
On Jan. 23, police were contacted by another witness who had received a letter from Coombs. The letter allegedly said that Coombs had set the fire at the Gibby’s building and that he saw himself as a “philanthropist” because he had been told by multiple girls about how they were raped or nearly raped in the building and that the city wouldn’t tear it down.
According to the affidavit, the Gibby’s building sustained about $500,000 in damages, a fire apparatus owned by the DuBois Volunteer Fire Department sustained $13,616.19 in damages and numerous businesses had to pay to remove the spray paint from their buildings.