Local News

Wendell man accused of setting fire to patrol car

Posted June 8, 2015 11:24 a.m. EDT
Updated June 8, 2015 5:57 p.m. EDT

— A Wendell man is accused of setting fire to the back seat of a police vehicle while he was being taken to jail.

Eric D. Timberlake, 31, of the 900 block of Atwell Lane, is charged with felony burning of personal property and assault on government official or employee.

Zebulon police Chief Tim Hayworth said Officer Andrew Collins saw Timberlake at a convenience store Friday, ran a check on his license plate and discovered he had outstanding warrants on numerous charges, including assault on a female, breaking and entering, secret peeping, communicating threats, stalking and assault with a deadly weapon.

Collins handcuffed Timberlake, put him in the back seat of his patrol car and started driving him to jail. The officer was on Interstate 440 near Rock Quarry Road when he looked back and realized his car was on fire.

Hayworth said Collins pulled over, called for backup and yanked Timberlake out of the car. That's when he discovered the suspect had a cigarette lighter.

"At some point, the suspect realizes this was not a good idea to do this, and he begins to panic," Hayworth said.

The fire burned the seat and seat belt, along with the officer’s traffic vest, uniform hat, gloves and tie. Neither the officer nor suspect was hurt.

"The officer did a great job," Hayworth said. "He kept presence of mind, was able to get the fire out, keep control of the suspect."

He said the incident marks the first time in his 28 years in law enforcement that he's heard of a suspect setting fire to a car while inside it.

Timberlake was held under a $100,000 bond on the additional charges.

Hayworth said lighters previously were not considered dangerous weapons, so they were not confiscated. However, he said, Zebulon police will begin confiscating lighters because of the incident.