Marine recruiter accused of starting fire at Bismarck recruiting station

2014-01-08T17:01:00Z Marine recruiter accused of starting fire at Bismarck recruiting stationBy JENNY MICHAEL | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

A U.S. Marine Corps recruiter has been accused of starting seven small fires in the recruiting station from which he works and of fabricating a story about the incident.

Anthony DeGroot, 29, was charged Wednesday with Class B felony arson and Class A misdemeanor false information to law enforcement.

South Central District Judge Bruce Haskell set bond for DeGroot at 10 percent of $5,000 cash, which means DeGroot must post $500 to be released but could be made to repay the entire amount if he is found to have violated conditions on his bond.

According to an affidavit from Bismarck Police detective Dean Clarkson, a man called 911 at 6:59 p.m. Dec. 26 to report seeing smoke at the Armed Services Recruiting Office, 240 W. Front Ave., and seeing a man, later identified as DeGroot, exit the building with duct tape around his face and wrist and lay down on the ground. The man said he had seen lights go out in what was the Marine side of the building before “DeGroot exited the building in a calm manner,” Clarkson wrote.

Responding officers took DeGroot to a safer location and cut off the duct tape. DeGroot was not responsive, so officers began CPR until DeGroot became responsive.

The affidavit said DeGroot is a Marine recruiter working from the office on Front Avenue. In court on Wednesday, DeGroot said he has been in the Marine Corps for 10 years and is a staff sergeant.

DeGroot was taken to St. Alexius following the fire and released with no apparent injuries, Clarkson said.

During interviews with police, DeGroot said a man came to the recruiting office and said he wanted to join the Marines. DeGroot said the man struck him when he approached him at the front door, knocking him unconscious, Clarkson wrote.

DeGroot told officers he awoke to find himself duct taped inside the dark building that was filling with smoke. He said he crawled out to the sidewalk and collapsed when the cold air hit him.

Meanwhile, the police department, fire department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the fire, Clarkson wrote. Investigators found seven separate fires had been set in the recruiting station: at DeGroot’s desk and in his locker, in an office, in two storage rooms and two bathrooms. Shredded paper was the fuel source for the fires, Clarkson wrote.

Information released at the time of the fire estimated that there was $30,000 in damage to the building.

Investigators also found a roll of duct tape in DeGroot’s desk that was the same type on DeGroot’s body, the affidavit said.

Another recruiter told investigators that DeGroot was not scheduled to work on Dec. 26 and had been having issues with his ex-wife. According to court documents, DeGroot and his wife divorced in September. The recruiter also told officers the recruiting station does not have duct tape in the office, Clarkson wrote.

He wrote that DeGroot was interviewed again on Tuesday and informed that evidence indicated he set the fire and fabricated the assault. DeGroot asserted his right to remain silent and did not speak further with officers, Clarkson wrote.

In court, DeGroot told Haskell he is from Utah and has been in Bismarck for one year. Burleigh County Assistant State’s Attorney Pam Nesvig recommended that DeGroot not be allowed contact with the recruiting station, but DeGroot said he would be violating that by contacting his commanding officers.

“That is where I work, sir,” he told Haskell.

The judge requested additional information from Marines personnel in the courtroom for the hearing. An officer told Haskell a decision on DeGroot’s status would be made based on how the court hearing went.

“We are concerned, sir,” the man said.

Haskell did not include the no-contact order in DeGroot’s bond but said he would add such a prohibition if requested later by the recruiting station.

Reach Jenny Michael at 701-250-8225 or jenny.michael@bismarcktribune.com.

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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