By Roxanna Jarvis
SACRAMENTO – An argument between two neighbors in June took a violent turn after one of them threw a jar of gasoline on the other, produced a lighter and threatened to “burn him up,” according to information presented at a Sacramento County Superior Court preliminary hearing Monday.
The defendant, Michael Van Irby, is charged with two felony counts—threatening to commit a crime resulting in death or great bodily injury and vandalism. He is currently in custody on $25,000 bail.
At the beginning of the hearing, Officer Caleb Michael Peterson took a report from the alleged victim, who said he and Irby “got into an argument when (Irby) doused him with a jar full of gasoline. The defendant then produced a lighter, saying he was going to ‘burn him up’ and that he needed to ‘mind his own business’…Irby then proceeded to walk around his van and smash his windows” with an unknown object.
During the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Gong asked Officer Peterson if Irby attempted to use the lighter. “He said he did not know if he used the lighter or not because he was covering his face after that because of his fear,” responded Peterson.
The alleged victim was inside his van (where he also lived) in the front yard of the residence when the incident occurred. The gasoline got onto him and the inside of the vehicle, which the officer said he could smell when he approached the driver’s side and leaned in.
When questioned by Assistant Public Defender Juan Corona if he saw the victim’s clothes soaked by the gasoline, Peterson answered, “I could not, but I also know gasoline evaporates fairly rapidly.”
Peterson said he then walked to the backyard of the residence, where Irby lived in his van. According to Peterson, Irby stated to him that he was currently on probation. “At this point [it] was incidental to (make) an arrest as well,” said Peterson.
When asked about Irby’s demeanor, Peterson said he looked “disappointed…Irby didn’t appear agitated or angry…just in his interaction with me he seemed a little downcast and upset that we were there.”
Upon detaining, Peterson searched Irby and found two lighters. “It appeared to me they weren’t broken and there was gasoline in them,” noted Peterson.
A third person was at the scene, but he was unwilling to give a statement to Peterson. “He lived there but wasn’t talking,” explained Peterson. “It appeared he was familiar with them and possibly stayed in that area, but like I said, he wouldn’t talk.”
According to Peterson, the alleged victim stated that it would cost around $700 to fix the windows of his van, which APD Corona challenged. “So, for all you know, the damage to the vehicle was less than $700?”
“In my personal experience, changing windows in the past of my own vehicles it’s never been less than that for more than one window,” said Peterson, who added that he has also taken multiple reports in the past where people have given the same estimates of damage to windows.
It was not stated what the argument between the two was about in the first place. According to Peterson, the victim did not remember what they were arguing about.
APD Corona argued that the particular details of the threat are unknown, saying, “The evidence that was presented was that he doused a jar of gasoline and [the victim] covered his eyes and was not able to see. There was some mention of Irby saying, ‘I’m going to burn you’ but we don’t know the specific details of the threat.”
DDA Gong asked the court for a holding order on both charges and responded to Corona’s argument. “The defendant doused him in gas and told him he was going to burn him up and pulled out a lighter,” explained Dong. “The fact that he pulled it out while dousing gasoline and his statement to him (the victim) I think is sufficient.”
The judge, Lawrence G. Brown, found sufficient cause to believe Irby is guilty of the charges. Judge Brown put over the arraignment for a trial, giving time for the parties to potentially resolve the case. Irby is set back to appear in court on Sept. 3, at 8:30 a.m.
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