ALBUQUERQUE ― David A. Hickman, 28, of Albuquerque, pleaded guilty in Federal Court to five counts of damaging and destroying buildings used in interstate commerce by fire or explosive.
Although Hickman pled guilty to five arson counts, in his plea agreement, Hickman acknowledged igniting arson fires that damaged or destroyed nine businesses engaged in interstate commerce in Albuquerque between Nov. 16, 2016 and Nov. 26, 2106. The plea agreement includes a recommendation that Hickman be sentenced to a term of imprisonment within the range of five to 20 years.
Hickman’s guilty plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, Special Agent in Charge John J. Durastanti of the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Chief Gorden E. Eden Jr., of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), and Captain Jackie Lance of the Albuquerque Fire Department, Fire Investigation Division (FID).
“Arson is a crime of extreme violence that puts the lives of the public and first responders in grave danger, and arsonists must understand that their crimes will evoke a serious response from the law enforcement community,” Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney said. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office commends the dedicated men and women of the FBI, ATF, the Albuquerque Police Department, and the Albuquerque Fire Department for working together to protect our community by apprehending David Hickman and bringing him to justice before his criminal conduct resulted in human injury and loss of life.”
“A series of arsons in Albuquerque almost a year ago not only endangered the lives of firefighters and other innocent people, but also jeopardized the paychecks of numerous hard-working employees at the damaged businesses,” said Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division. “The FBI is proud to have been part of the team of local and federal law enforcement and fire investigators who came together to solve this case. We congratulate the U.S. Attorney’s Office on a successful prosecution, and we hope it sends a clear message that those responsible for this kind of criminal behavior will be held accountable.”
“I would like to compliment the investigative efforts of all the agencies that lead to Hickman’s arrest,” said Special Agent in Charge John J. Durastanti of the Phoenix Field Division of the ATF. “The Albuquerque Fire Investigation Division in partnership with the ATF National Response Team were able to determine the cause and origin of the Carlisle Condominiums fire started by Hickman on November 23, 2016.”
“This guilty plea ensures justice in a very disturbing case. We are appreciate the hard work and diligence of our law enforcement partners,” said Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden E. Eden Jr.
“The successful investigation and prosecution of David Hickman brings great pride to the Albuquerque Fire Department, especially its Fire Investigation Division (FID). Through a community approach, the men and women of the FID, together with APD, ATF and FBI worked diligently to close this case while continuing to keep our community safe,” said Albuquerque Fire Captain Jackie Lance. “We would like to express our gratitude to everyone who contributed to the successful resolution of this complex case. Please remember if you see something suspicious, say something.”
Hickman was arrested Nov. 28, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging him with maliciously damaged and destroyed, and attempted to damage and destroy, by means of fire, a building, an Old Navy store located in Albuquerque, used in interstate commerce Nov. 26, 2016. APD officers arrested Hickman in the early hours of Nov. 26, 2016, and later transferred him into the custody of the FBI. Hickman was arrested shortly after an APD officer responded to the Pavilions at San Mateo shopping center after hearing “small explosions” coming from the area. When the officer arrived at the shopping center, he observed Hickman running into and out of the Old Navy store located in the shopping center, which was on fire. Hickman subsequently was indicted on one count of maliciously damaging a building, the Old Navy store, by fire Dec. 20, 2016.
During Wednesday’s change of plea hearing, Hickman pled guilty to the one-count indictment and to a felony information charging him with four additional counts of arson. In entering the guilty plea, Hickman admitted that, between Nov. 16, 2016 and Nov. 26, 2016, he ignited and attempted to ignite nine separate fires at the following businesses in Albuquerque:
Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 800 Broadway Blvd. NE;
Project Defending Life, located at 625 San Mateo Blvd. NE;
Carlisle Condominiums, located at 3600 Central Ave. SE;
Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 5301 Gibson Blvd. SE;
Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 4407 Lomas Blvd. NE;
Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 3400 Central Ave. SE;
Barnes & Noble Bookstore, located at the Coronado Mall at 6600 Menaul Blvd. NE;
“Shred It,” located at 1415 Broadway Blvd. NE; and
Old Navy, located at 4900 Cutler Ave. NE.
However, Hickman entered guilty pleas to committing five arsons that damaged and destroyed the following businesses:
Igniting the fire at the Carlisle Condominiums located at 3600 Central Ave. SE, Nov. 23, 2016, by using glass mason jars filled with ignitable liquid. The Carlisle Condominiums were under construction and approximately 80% complete when Hickman broke into the construction site and ignited the fire. The damages caused by the fire exceeded $8 million.
Setting the fire at the Starbucks Coffee Shop located at 5301 Gibson Blvd. SE, Nov. 25, 2016, by firing a gun into a glass door so he could enter the shop and throwing glass mason jar devices into the building together with firecrackers and a kerosene container that would ignite and fuel the fire.
Setting the fire at the “Shred It” building located at 1415 Broadway Blvd NE, Nov. 26, 2016, by firing a gun into a glass door so he could enter the building and use glass mason jar devices and road flares to ignite fires in the building.
Setting the fire at the Barnes & Noble bookstore building located at the Coronado Mall at 6600 Menaul Blvd. NE, Nov. 26, 2016, by firing a gun into a glass door so he could enter the building and use glass mason jar devices and a road flare to ignite fires in the store. The damages caused by the fire exceeded $800,000.
Setting the fire at the Old Navy store located in Albuquerque Nov. 26, 2016, by shooting several rounds from an assault rifle into the windows of the store so he could enter the store and ignite several fires inside the store using glass mason jar devices with a road flare. The damages caused by the fire exceeded $690,000.
Hickman was arrested shortly after departing the Old Navy store. When he was arrested, Hickman was wearing a holster with a handgun and had a flare in his belt. In Hickman’s vehicle, officers found an assault rifle in his vehicle, glass mason jar devices, tape, ammunition, kerosene, tannerite, and motor oil. Officers also found similar materials, including firecrackers, inside Hickman’s residence while executing a search warrant.
Hickman has been in federal custody since his arrest and remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
The Albuquerque Division of the FBI, the Albuquerque office of the ATF, ATF’s National Response Team, APD and the Albuquerque Fire Department conducted the investigation of this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred J. Federici is prosecuting the case.