A Grand Rapids man is jailed awaiting arraignment on Thursday after police said he sets fires, tried to break into a pharmacy and rammed an Emmett Township fire engine just before midnight Monday.
Court records show Kenneth H. Smith Jr., 30, is being held and should be arraigned in Calhoun County District Court on Thursday afternoon.
Prosecutor David Gilbert said Wednesday charges have been authorized of fleeing and eluding police and fourth-degree arson. More charges are expected; they could include malicious destruction of a fire engine, resisting arrest, breaking and entering and attempting to escape police custody.
Emmett Township police said Smith was arrested after he attempted to set three fires at the Meijer Inc. store at 6405 B Drive N. in the Harper Village shopping area. Police said he also attempted to steal a computer keyboard from the Walmart at 6020 B Drive N. and then, after ramming a fire engine, fled in his car eastbound on B Drive. After losing a wheel, the man’s vehicle crashed into a ditch east of Beadle Lake Road, police said.
Emmett Township Public Safety officers were called at 11:47 p.m. Monday to the Meijer store parking lot after witnesses said they saw a man attempting set a car on fire.
“People were watching him and he was acting really weird,” said Lt. Tony Geigle of the Emmett Township Department of Public Safety. “After messing with the car, he went into the store and the witnesses saw smoke coming from the car and saw a rag hanging from the gas tank.”
The witnesses pulled the rag from the car and called 911, Geigle said. The vehicle sustained some damage to the body.
Inside the store, the man attempted to start a fire in the lawn and garden area, Geigle said, but was unsuccessful.
He then went to the pharmacy window, which was closed for the day, and attempted to break in and also disrupt the security camera. That set off an alarm, alerting store security.
Geigle said the fires may have been an attempted diversion while he tried to break into the pharmacy.
When the alarm sounded the man left the store and went to the nearby Meijer gas station and inside the bathroom set fire to a toilet paper dispenser and tampon dispenser, Geigle said. After he left the store, an employee noticed smoke and went to the bathroom and extinguished the fire and then notified store supervisors.
After leaving the gas station, Smith allegedly drove his car across B Drive to the Walmart where he attempted to steal the keyboard and was seen by store security, who called police.
An officer spotted his car and activated her emergency lights and Geigle said the man stopped, with his car facing the patrol car. When the officer approached the vehicle he caused it to lurch forward, nearly hitting her, Geigle said.
As he left the parking lot, an Emmett Township fire engine was entering the drive. The driver saw the car approaching and stopped. Geigle said there was room for the vehicle to pass the engine but instead it rammed the front of the engine, wedging the car under the fire truck’s bumper. As the firefighter climbed out of the engine, the car backed away and went around the passenger side of the engine, over a curb, and struck the rear of the truck.
Geigle said the fire engine sustained about $10,000 in damage. Once repairs are scheduled, it likely will be out of service for a month, he said.
Police said Smith left the lot, turning east on B Drive as his passenger side front wheel fell off. He continued eastbound, spraying sparks, and with at least three patrol cars following until he crashed into a ditch east of Beadle Lake Road.
Smith surrendered without further incident.
As he was being taken to the jail, he told the officer who was driving he was sick and asked for the window in the back of the patrol car to be lowered. Geigle said the officer agreed but said Smith had been able to put his handcuffed arms in front of him and reached out to open the door. The Emmett officer and one from Battle Creek were able to put him back in the car.
Geigle said Smith was taken to Bronson Battle Creek to be checked but was not injured. A breath test showed his blood alcohol level was 0.22, but Geigle said officers suspect he may have been under the influence of other substances.
Smith has a prior criminal record in the Battle Creek area. He was arrested on Oct. 21, 2014, after Battle Creek police found him attempting to enter the Walgreens drug store at 5991 Beckley Road.
He later entered a no-contest plea to possession of burglary tools and was sentenced in Calhoun County Circuit Court to two years in prison. He was released Oct. 4.
Geigle said no one was injured in the incident and that Emmett officers were assisted by Battle Creek police, the Calhoun County Sheriff Department and the Michigan State Police.