Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - At approximately 9:50 a.m. on November 20, 2023, a Missoula Police Department officer heard dispatch advise of a disorderly conduct call at the Poverello Center. Call notes stated a male was pouring gas and starting fires. 

33-year-old Christopher Austin was the suspect and was seen on W. Broadway Street. An officer located Austin and placed him in handcuffs. The officer observed that Austin smelled strongly of gasoline. Austin also had two lighters in his right jacket pocket. 

An officer returned to the Poverello Center to investigate and spoke to the complainant. She led the officer out to the courtyard and said Austin had gasoline in a 2-liter bottle. She said Austin lit a bush and tree on fire.  

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Staff Explains What Happened 

She referred the officer to another employee who had a 2-liter soda bottle in one hand and a fire extinguisher in another. He advised that there was gasoline in the bottle, but he had poured the rest out. 

He said Austin threw gas on a tree and then attempted to light it, but he sprayed Austin’s hand with the fire extinguisher. He said Austin then gave him the bottle with the lid on it. He said Austin also “reared” up and looked like he was going to throw the gas on him with the lighter in his hand. He stated he thought Austin was going to throw the gas at him and light him on fire. 

The officer spoke to another witness who said he tried to get Austin to stop, but Austin turned on him and acted like he was going to splash the gas on him. He stated Austin then lit more trees on fire. The officer was advised by a maintenance employee that the cost of replacing one tree would be approximately $1,800.  

Austin was placed under arrest and transported to the Missoula County Detention Facility. The officer spoke with Austin there and advised him of his rights under Miranda, which Austin said he understood. The officer asked him about his intent regarding lighting the trees on fire. According to court documents, Austin said he did this to prevent them from stealing more time from him, spiritually. He went on to state more incoherent sentences. 

Austin is currently being charged with felony negligent arson. On November 21, 2023, Austin was released from the jail. 

The information in this article was obtained from sources that are publicly viewable. 

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