Ukiah Man Accused of Lighting the Hopkins Fire Was Photographed Gazing as the Flames Consumed Homes and Wildland

Suspect allegedly gazing back over the fire he was arrested for setting. [Photo by Peter Armstrong]
Suspect, Devin Johnson, on the left, gazing back over the fire he was arrested for allegedly setting. [Photo by Peter Armstrong]

Peter Armstrong, a well-known photographer in Mendocino County, was on the scene of the Hopkins Fire on Sunday, September 12 when his aperture captured Devin Johnson, the 20-year-old Ukiah man suspected of purposefully lighting the fire, standing on the Moore Street Bridge staring at the fire he is alleged to have started while it burned homes and wildland.

Johnson, seen in the image above, has much longer hair than the booking photo currently on the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Booking Logs. MCSO’s Booking Log system will often initially populate mugshots from an arrestee’s previous arrest. The image of Johnson currently on MCSO’s booking logs is related to his previous arrest for aggravated robbery.

Devin Johnson [Booking photo from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department website]
Devin Johnson in his June 2020 booking photo [Booking photo from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department website]

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall confirmed with us that the individual standing on the bridge in the photograph appears to be Johnson, the suspect they arrested yesterday after surveillance footage captured him leaving the scene of the fire’s origin.

As per a statement from MCSO Captain Greg Van Patten, Johnson was located within hundreds of yards of the fire’s origin point in downtown Calpella yesterday.

He stands accused of aggravated arson of multiple structures, arson of an inhabited structure, and arson during a state of emergency. He is currently being held on a no-bail status in the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

A 1976 paper by Bernard Levin, a researcher for the Center of Fire Research, explored the psychological characteristics of fire starters. Levin characterized fire starters into three motivational groups: 1) arson-for-profit fire setters 2) solitary firesetters, and 3) group firesetters.

Levin’s analysis determined that arson-for-profit fire starters hope to profit from the act possibly by collecting insurance money or being paid to light a fire.

In contrast, solitary fire setters come in many forms. They can be motivated by revenge or spite, or be a pyromaniac who “derives sensual satisfaction” from their act. Another motivation for the individual fire setters could be a desire to be a “hero [that] sets fires in order to help put them out.”

Levin characterized group fire setters into three categories based on motivation: 1) political fires, 2) vandalism fires, or 3) riot fires.

Levin argued that most arsonists display characteristics of psychopathy including often leading “reasonable normal lives”, lacking “feeling or concern for others,” and they do not often respond to punishment.

Levin went on to say arsonists “often come from broken or disruptive homes,” live under “harsh or frustrating conditions,” and display “low intelligence and lack of achievement.” Arsonists often have “committed other crimes.”

Other common characteristics of arsonists, according to Levine, include “sexual and social inadequacies” and bedwetting as a child.

Our Coverage of the Hopkins Fire

Categories: Crime, Fire, News

10 replies »

  1. The article about arsonists may serve to put motive on Devin that he may not have had. I am intetested to know if it is believed that he purposely intended to burn structures or was he perhaps unwisely playing with fire?

    • How can you say unwisely, when we are in a damn dry drought, where is common sense? do we have a hatred for other races? or just thought it would be cool to burnem all out. if he is a criminal or a nut job, the state needs to find him a new home for a long time!

    • @Melody Did you really just try to invent some kind of defense for this losers actions? It’s definitely a form of psychological deviance to go around setting illegal fires.

  2. Activists have been sending incendiary balloons over the Gaza wall for the last few years yet world media ignores this. Because they are victims of Israel’s self defense.
    Homeless are being pushed out of all camp sites in Mendocino County and the only weapon they own might be a Bic lighter. Don’t mess with the homeless, they have nothing to lose.

  3. There are NO good reasons to be setting fires. Everybody knows how Cali is a tinder box. The news is usually split between Chinavirus and fires. Both running wild.

  4. So I guess rich wealthy people can’t be arsonist right? This article is so stereotypical
    They don’t even know if the guy did it

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