Gulfport Sergeant Tom Woodman arrested Gulfport Hardware owner David Cretella on charges of second degree arson Friday night at 9:30. Footage from Save-a-Lot and O'Maddy's contributed to this arrest, local sources and Gulfport Police say.
Police cannot reveal all of the investigation, but last night witnesses told the Gabber that a cab was in front of the store just before the fire. Today other witnesses called the Gabber and said Mr. Cretella left O'Maddy's in a cab. Gulfport Police will neither confirm nor deny this information.
At 8:23 p.m. Thursday night, Gulfport Police noticed heavy smoke and flames coming from the hardware store. Firefighters fought the blaze and explosions for several hours. Paint and chemicals contributed to the extended blaze. Firefighters and police closed Gulfport Boulevard until 3:00 a.m., when they extinguished the fire. Fire officials estimate the damages at $600,000.00. Local rescue workers say there were no reported injuries.
Police developed probable cause based on a timeline pieced together from video surveillance and what police call “statements inconsistent with the evidence” found at Gulfport Hardware. The state fire marshall arrived on scene Friday morning and found two areas of the fire’s origin.
“The timeline of the video and the rapid succession of the fire suggest that the fire was intentionally set,” Detective Sergeant Tom Woodman said Friday night.
The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigation (BFAI) searched Gulfport Hardware for possible accidental causes of the fire but could not find any.
On a charge of second degree arson, Cretella cannot bond out of jail. Cretella did not confess.