Robert Carl Anson

Robert Carl Anson booking photo.

An accused serial arsonist was arrested the morning Feb. 15 at a Sonora hotel on suspicion of burning items that did not belong to him inside of a room and later garnered an additional felony charge when he threatened to burn down the home of the arresting officer.

Sonora Police Officer Thomas Brickley said the officer responded to the 300 block of South Washington Street before 6 a.m. Feb. 15 for a report of a fire. When the officer arrived, he determined the occupant of the hotel room had burned a lampshade and multiple other items in the hotel room which did not belong to him. The fire was already extinguished when the officer arrived.

The officer determined the suspect, Robert Carl Anson, a 59-year-old transient from Sonora, had stayed at the hotel that night, Brickley said. Booking logs identified the site of the arrest as the Heritage Inn, a hotel in Sonora.

Brickley said he could not release how long Anson had been an occupant of the hotel, but noted he was not being put up there due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anson was a known contact to the department, though this was the first contact the responding officer had with him, Brickley said.

Anson was found to be in an arsonist registry accessible to law enforcement, Brickley said. The registry, which noted previous arson convictions, also included that Anson had previous charges of arson in the county and was registered as an arsonist in the county.

The officer took Anson into custody at the hotel on suspicion of arson of an inhabited structure and arson with a previous conviction, both of which are felonies.

While being transported to the Tuolumne County jail, Anson threatened the officer and said "he was going to follow the officer home and burn down his home with his family in it," according to a Sonora Police Department press release. 

When booked into the jail on Feb. 15, Anson was additionally charged with obstructing an executive officer with threats or violence, a felony.

A press release from the department on Wednesday misidentified his arrest date as the next day, Brickley said. 

Anson was booked on $100,000 bail and remained in custody as of Thursday afternoon. 

According to Union Democrat and Tuolumne County jail records, Anson has had multiple charges within the county over the past five years involving arson or threats to law enforcement.

In February 2017, he was transferred to Tuolumne County from Fresno for charges of causing a fire to a structure on forest land and a felony violation of post-release community supervision.

On May 25 and 26, 2017, he earned a high-profile arrest and another release from the Sonora Police Department for threatening to bomb a police car after a misdemeanor petty theft arrest.  

According to Union Democrat records, Anson was on the way to jail when he told officers, “I’m going to drop a bomb on this state. No, in fact, I’m going to bomb this police car."

At the time, Anson was already identified as a registered arsonist who did not update his registration. The day after the bomb threat arrest, he reportedly admitted to starting a fire in a public restroom in Grigsby Park in Sonora.

Anson was charged at the time with threatening a crime with the intent to terrorize, causing fire to a property with a previous conviction, both felonies, and misdemeanor charges of petty theft, unlawful burning of property and making a false bomb threat to an officer. 

On Aug. 3, 2017, he was transferred to Tuolumne County from El Dorado County on a warrant and on April 27, 2018, he sustained a probation violation for misdemeanor charges of obstructing an officer.

In early May of 2018, he was arrested on suspicion of a felony violation of his post-release community supervision and misdemeanor charges of a probation violation and disorderly conduct for alcohol. On May 23, 2018, he was remanded while in the custody of the jail for obstructing a police officer.

On Dec. 2, 2019, he transferred from Napa State Hospital, a state psychiatric facility.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at gricapito@uniondemocrat.net or (209) 588-4526.

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