Man cleared in most serious park fire charge

November 25, 2011 7:59:00 PM PST
It was back in September. Three fires at George Bush Park burned roughly 1,500 acres and sparked authorities' interest.

A former volunteer firefighter was arrested at the scene of one of the park fires. But now, Lonnie Ray Henderson is no longer facing the most serious charge from that arrest.

Henderson is an out of work tattoo artist who, according to his attorney, can't shake the bad publicity of his arrest. Things got better for him last week when a grand jury here did not indict him on a charge of impersonating a public official, but he's still not in the clear.

At Millie Bush Dog Park, a dip in the pond is usually followed by a rinse. It's a nice escape for Alex Campos and his dog, Hatch.

"Friendly place, dogs are friendly," said Campos. "It's just nice to walk around and enjoy."

In September, everything was uncertain.

"I was like, it's not going to be here anymore," Campos said.

That was when George Bush park seemed plagued by fire. Charred ground and trees serve as a reminder of the three that burned 1,500 acres. But as for who or what started them, it seems investigators have very little.

"There is no evidence that he started the fire, participated in the fire or did anything but to help put it out," said attorney Don Hekcer, who represents Henderson.

Henderson, long labeled -- at most -- a person of interest and at the very the least, a firefighter impersonator. The former volunteer firefighter was spotted near one of the fires, riding his ATV and wearing firefighting gear.

Couple that with the fact that investigators thought the fires were possibly set and authorities thought they had their man.

Last week, a grand jury no-billed Henderson on the impersonation charge. He was never charged with arson, but Hecker says all of it has been damaging.

"This publicity really, really hurt because it labeled him as a potential arsonist," said Hecker.

Meanwhile, the question remains just who caused all this damage.

"It's kind of scary," said Campos. "It could happen again."

Just six days before the grand jury's decision here, Henderson was charged with theft, accused of stealing a Katy firefighter's boots the day of the fire worth $375.

Given the holiday, no one with knowledge of this investigation was available to tell us whether they still consider these fires suspicious or whether Henderson is still a person of interest.

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