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Armed man arrested in Lettered Streets arson

Bellingham firefighters roll hose they used to extinguish the fire Sunday afternoon, Sept. 24, at a Lettered Streets professional office building.
Bellingham firefighters roll hose they used to extinguish the fire Sunday afternoon, Sept. 24, at a Lettered Streets professional office building. rmittendorf@bhamherald.com

A Bellingham man is facing arson charges after an armed confrontation with police officers in connection with a small fire Sunday afternoon outside a professional office building in the Lettered Streets neighborhood.

Billy Paul Cooper, 39, was booked into Whatcom County Jail on charges of arson and reckless burning after the fire, which was reported shortly after 4 p.m. in the 1800 block of C Street. Cooper remained in jail Monday morning.

“(Cooper) was arrested for attempted arson second degree after he set a fire in the covered walkway,” said a statement on Monday morning’s police activity log. Cooper is known to sleep in the area, said Police Lt. Danette Beckley.

According to emergency radio dispatches, a single Bellingham Fire engine was sent to an outside fire at 1815 C Street. When that engine arrived, its captain reported that clothes had been set ablaze next to the building, and he requested additional engines and personnel, the equivalent of a full structure fire response.

But firefighters doused the flames quickly, canceling additional units, according to emergency radio traffic.

Beckley said the incident began as Cooper called 911, making “suicide by cop” threats about 10 minutes before the fire was reported – the fire was reported by someone inside the building.

“Cooper was located laying under bushes on the north side of the building,” Beckley said. “Cooper was armed with a knife and failed to follow officer’s commands. Cooper was eventually tased and taken in to custody.”

No damage was reported to the building, Beckley said.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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