Authenticating the Arsonist

The man claiming responsibility for the Mountains Preserve arsons provided details proving he is a member of the CSP and demonstrated knowledge about the fires that was authenticated by authorities or subsequent events.

Such details include:

• The unpublished contents of CSP communiqués sent to several publications.

• Previously unreported facts, such as mistakes made by the arsonists at two houses, confirmed by Bob Khan, deputy chief of the Phoenix Fire Department.

• The arsonist told New Times that a non-North Phoenix Preserve "unit" was forming the day before the first reported CSP fire near the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Then, 12 hours after the fire, the arsonist said the unit left behind a signed note -- a note whose existence was not made public until three days later. Khan himself said he did not know about the note until midday Friday.

Khan confirmed the CSP is responsible for at least four of the 11 Mountains Preserve arsons. All the arsons fit the same profile, but only four included messages from the CSP. The CSP's first graffiti message was at an arson site last May. Khan could not comment on the CSP's assertion that one fire was a copycat.

Khan refused to confirm or deny some of the crime scene details provided by the arsonist -- such as the size and location of igniters placed in the houses and the contents of notes left at the scene -- saying such facts are "part of the investigation."

Claims about the arsonist's fellow members and the group's history, however, are impossible to authenticate. When asked if he was being entirely truthful about such identifying details, the arsonist admitted some facts were exaggerated, and that some details were omitted to throw off authorities.

When asked if the CSP could be mountain bikers as the arsonist claims, Khan says, "I thought that, but that would be a big, huge leap for me to say." He then settled on stating the CSP is "familiar with the Phoenix Preserve trails" and that trails run near the arson targets.

Khan was not told the source of our information.

"Good questions," he said. "Your source for this must be pretty good."

Five minutes after our interview, an arson task force investigator for the Phoenix Police Department called to request the source of our information.

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