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Deputies: Beverly Hills man arrested after setting 3 different fires

Deputies say after being read his Miranda Rights, the man confessed to setting all three fires.
Credit: Citrus County Sheriff's Office

BEVERLY HILLS, Fla. — Citrus County Sheriff's deputies and Citrus County Fire Rescue were dispatched to a church Friday morning where a man is accused of starting a fire, a news release reports.

Deputies say a witness on scene told the first responders he saw a "white man wearing a black leather jacket and tan shorts running across the parking lot towards the front of the church. He then saw the man "pour liquid out of a gas can around a tree and a statue of Jesus Christ and set both on fire."

The church's surveillance cameras were able to show the man described by the witness who also reportedly tried to light propane tanks near the building on fire.

While investigating at the church, the sheriff's office received additional calls about a fence fire off of South Barbour Street, the release explains. The homeowner told deputies the front door and windows were covered in a liquid which was possibly gasoline.

A third fire was reported at a home on South Wadsworth Avenue.

Firefighters say they saw flames coming from an open window. There was major damage to the house after the crew extinguished the fire. No one was inside the home during the fire.

With the help of the surveillance video from the church, CCSO Community Crimes Detectives Helfritz and Hughes were able to identify 25-year-old James Lee Harris as the person of interest in the fires, according to the release.

Harris was found and arrested shortly after 10 p.m. with the help of the community. Deputies say after being read his Miranda Rights, he confessed to setting all three fires.

Harris was arrested on one felony count of arson to a dwelling, one count of misdemeanor criminal mischief, one felony count of arson to a church, and one count misdemeanor of criminal mischief to a church.

The sheriff's office says Harris is being held at the Citrus County Detention Facility on a $36,000 bond.

"Not only is arson dangerous, but in some cases can be deadly. No one in our community was injured during Harris' tirade of inconceivable acts," Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast said in a statement. 

"I applaud our deputies, Community Crimes Detectives, and our partners at Citrus County Fire Rescue for working swiftly and diligently to keep our community safe from further harm. I would also like to thank our witnesses for coming forward so quickly with invaluable information that helped us solve this crime."