A Cal Fire investigator processes the scene of an arson fire which destroyed a Gustine police car early Friday morning. That incident remains under investigation. 


GUSTINE - A Gustine man was arrested Friday, Nov. 15, in connection with two arson incidents at a home in the 200 block of Via Borrelli, police reported.

Acting Lt. Samuel Joseph told Mattos Newspapers that Hector M. De La Cruz Jr., 29, of Gustine, was taken into custody and booked on multiple felony charges relating to the Nov. 8 and Nov. 11 Via Borrelli incidents.

The first Via Borrelli arson burned two vehicles parked in a driveway, Joseph said, and in the second a flammable liquid was ignited at the front door of the residence. No injuries were reported.

Joseph said patrol officers took De La Cruz into custody Friday afternoon following a traffic stop in the 1200 block of Southport Way and booked him on the charges stemming from the Via Borrelli cases. According to Merced County jail records, De La Cruz is being held on multiple felony charges, including probation violation, vandalism, arson of an inhabited structure and arson of property.

De La Cruz has also been identified as a person of interest in the investigation into a Friday morning arson which heavily damaged a Gustine police car, Joseph told Mattos Newspapers. He said Monday the investigation was ongoing and that no charges had been filed relating to that incident.

Joseph said surveillance video of the Friday morning incident appears to show a subject throwing an object toward the police vehicle, which was parked in a garage driveway across Sixth Street from the police station, and then fleeing on foot as a fireball ignited. The flames were quickly extinguished by firefighters, Joseph said, but not before extensively damaging the vehicle.

Each of the incidents occurred around 3 a.m.