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Guilty plea in 9 fires at condos, businesses

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

An Albuquerque man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to five counts of arson in connection with nine fires set at Albuquerque businesses over a 10-day period last year.

David Hickman, 28, is facing five to 20 years in prison at sentencing, according to his plea agreement. U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera is assigned to the case.

Albuquerque police officers arrested Hickman last November after he set fire to the Old Navy store at 4900 Cutler NE, which destroyed the store’s sales inventory, valued at more than $690,000, according to the plea agreement.

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All told, Hickman caused millions of dollars in damage by breaking into eight businesses and a set of condominiums that were under construction and setting fires using mason jars filled with ignitable liquid like gasoline, according to his plea agreement. In some of the cases, he got into the businesses by shooting out the windows.

The fire he set at Carlisle Condominiums in Nob Hill caused $8 million in damage, according to the agreement.

Though he pleaded guilty to five arson counts, he admitted targeting the following places from Nov. 16, 2016 until Nov. 26, 2016:

n Starbucks, 800 Broadway NE.

• Project Defending Life, 625 San Mateo NE.

• Carlisle Condominiums, 3600 Central SE.

• Starbucks, 5301 Gibson SE.

• Starbucks, 4407 Lomas NE.

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• Starbucks, 3400 Central SE.

• Barnes & Noble bookstore, 6600 Menaul NE.

• “Shred It,” 1415 Broadway NE.

• Old Navy, 4900 Cutler NE.

“This guilty plea ensures justice in a very disturbing case. We appreciate the hard work and diligence of our law enforcement partners,” Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden said in a prepared statement.

James Tierney, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico, called arson an “extreme crime of violence” that puts the lives of firefighters and the public at risk.

Zachary Ives, Hickman’s attorney, declined to comment after the hearing.

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