By Lauren Smith
RIVERSIDE – A military veteran—suffering a typical Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) reaction after firefighters charged into his apartment—was remanded here on $55,000 bail, despite not hurting anyone.
Defendant Elven Escobar was held on arson charges after a hearing in Riverside County Superior Court.
On Dec. 13, the Riverside Fire Department responded to a fire alarm at an apartment complex and entered the apartment where the fire originated, where they found the defendant in the bathroom holding a large “knife and (in a) combat stance,” according a police report.
The defendant allegedly walked toward the firefighters with the knife, causing them to retreat. Once in the parking lot, the firefighters “tackled the defendant and held him down until law enforcement arrived.”
Police conducted a search, and found “a torch style lighter.” The defendant allegedly admitted to starting the fire and was taken into custody.
Deputy Public Defender Alex Hallowell asked for the defendant to be released on his own recognizance (OR) because Escobar is a military veteran currently receiving treatment for PTSD.
DPD Hallowell stated that “there was an episode going on that caused Mr. Escobar to retreat to the bathroom with the knife,” noting that the defendant “dropped the knife upon leaving, prior to the firefighters tackling him.”
According to Hallowell’s statement of events, when the firefighters entered the apartment, they found the defendant seated in the bathroom with the knife. Escobar left the apartment, dropped the knife in the entryway, went down the stairs, and then was tackled by firefighters.
Hallowell once again asked for his client be released on OR under conditions including continued treatment for PTSD.
According to the police report, however, the firefighters stated they “forced entry into the residence” and found the defendant in the bathroom in a “combat manner.” The firefighters’ statements revealed that the defendant changed the knife position to a “more traditional grip and was pointing it” at them.
The police report stated that when the defendant came downstairs, he no longer had the knife in his hands.
Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao argued that Escobar’s bail should be set at $55,000 because he is a “danger to society,” demonstrated through “start[ing] a fire [and] charg[ing] at firefighters.”
DPD Hallowell countered that Escobar has a short criminal record, that the charge is “directly related to mental health issues” and that if he just continues treatment of his PTSD, he is not a danger to society.
However, understanding that perhaps the court may not want to do that, Hallowell stated that bail should be set at $15,000 because Escobar’s only income is disability.
Despite the defendant’s mental health condition and inability to pay a high bail amount, the court concluded that bail will be set at $55,000.
Lauren Smith is a fourth year student at UC Davis, double majoring in Political Science and Psychology. She is from San Diego, California.
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