Arson suspect, who also broke parts of squad car, held on $100,000 cash bond

By Brandi Makuski

A Stevens Point man was ordered held on a $100,000 cash bond Tuesday after allegedly starting a northside home on fire, then fleeing the scene.

Blaine P. Johnson, 27, was arrested by two Stevens Point police detectives on March 23 from the Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, where police found him in possession of items he’d stolen from the Smith St. home before lighting it on fire, as well as a one-way ticket to Georgia.

Johnson made his bond appearance by video from the Portage Co. Jail on Tuesday before Judge Thomas Fluguar.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Zell said the Smith St. home was the residence of Johnson’s ex-girlfriend. The woman had a restraining order issued against Johnson last December, though Johnson has been arrested twice for violating the order. Both of those cases are still pending.

According to the incident report, Johnson is believed to have broken into the home by breaking a window at about 3 a.m. on March 23, leaving with a poster, a camera, several purses, and other personal items, Zell said. Johnson was captured on video surveillance returning to the home just before 4 a.m. when he poured some type of accelerant and started the fire.

Zell said Johnson was texting his ex-girlfriend while pouring the accelerant to say he had no intention of paying for his crimes.

The ex-girlfriend and her roommate were not home at the time, Zell said, and neither was an upstairs tenant, but Zell added Blaine “would have had no way of knowing that” as the tenant’s car was in the driveway.

After determining Johnson was the suspect, Stevens Point police officers tracked his cell phone to the airport, then contacted the Milwaukee Co. Sheriff’s Office for assistance in detaining Johnson until detectives could arrive with an arrest warrant.

Johnson was disruptive during the car ride back to Stevens Point, Zell said, and he “fought the whole way back to get out of his restraints.” Johnson managed to free himself from his handcuffs, rattled the partition separating the officers from the back seat, and broke part of the squad car, pulling wiring out of the floor.

Officers were forced to stop twice on the way back to Stevens Point, Zell said; once at the Lomira Police Department, where nearly 10 officers were needed to control Johnson and place him in new restraints, and again at the Fond du Lac County Jail, where he was placed in additional restraints.

Zell said the case against Johnson was “very, very strong,” adding, “the state does have serious concerns regarding Mr. Johnson’s willingness to cooperate on these outrageous and dangerous charges—he’s obviously willing to go to extreme lengths to try and beat the odds here.”

Flugaur agreed, saying that Johnson’s actions showed he wasn’t willing to cooperate, and issued the high cash bond. If convicted, Johnson faces up to 40 years for a charge of arson, 12-and-a-half years for a burglary charge, and nine months each for four additional charges including theft, bail-jumping, and violating a restraining order.

Johnson will be formally charged during his March 30 initial appearance.