John Hays headshot accused of arson

John Hays, 36, has been accused of setting fires outside Benjamin Franklin Plumbing & Heating after losing his job with the company. 

An Akron man tried to set his former employer's business on fire after losing his job, according to police.

Police also say John Derek Hays, 36, punctured 25 tires on 10 different vehicles on the company's property. 

An officer with the East Hempfield Township Police Department responded to Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and Heating at 516 Running Pump Road at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday for a report of damage at the property, according to the criminal complaint. The officer found that someone punctured 11 tires on five different vehicles, as well as evidence that someone tried to ignite two 100-gallon propane tanks on the property by lighting a piece of cardboard on fire and putting it between them. 

The officer then went to 464 Running Pump Road, which also belongs to the company, and found 14 tires among five vehicles punctured, the complaint said. The officer also saw a broken garage window and signs that someone tried to start a fire using flammable liquid and a burning piece of cardboard.

The Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshall Division determined that the fires were started by a person, according to the complaint. 

Police reviewed surveillance footage and saw Hays puncturing the vehicles’ tires and trying to light the fires, the complaint said. Company management told police Hays had been terminated on Tuesday morning and did not take the news well. 

Emergency crews responded Thursday morning to the business for a report of a vehicle fire.

Responding officers found two vehicles on fire in the business’ parking lot and "several" other vehicles damaged by the fire, according to the criminal complaint. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fires, and no injuries were reported. 

Officers with West Earl Township Police Department arrested Hays at his residence and turned him over to East Hempfield Township Police. 

Police say Hayes slashed a total of 25 tires for a loss of $6,250 as well as $5,000 in towing expenses. Police estimate the cost in damages from the fires to be $80,000. 

Hays is charged with five counts of arson, one count of burglary, three counts of risking catastrophe, one count of causing catastrophe, two counts of criminal mischief, two counts of possession of an instrument with crime and three counts of defiant trespass. He is currently in Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $350,000 combined bail. 

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