HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Two people were arrested after a Tampa Police cruiser was broken into and set on fire, authorities say.
Police say while conducting patrol along Bay to Bay Boulevard on Monday, officers saw two people riding bicycles with no lights around 1:30 a.m.
An officer pulled them over, and while speaking with them, smelled fire in the area.
Officers found a TPD cruiser in the parking lot of Shoresh David Messianic Synagogue of Tampa with the front passenger window smashed in and the front passenger seat engulfed in flames.
“I got a text from someone who saw the news report on TV, actually the pastor of the church let me know,” said Ron Leef, the administrator at the Synagogue.
During the investigation, police found that the two men, Matthew Ethridge and Jeremy Penney, both had prior arson arrests.
Left: Jeremy Penney; Right: Matthew Ethridge
“Mr. Etheridge does have a history of arson in his background, he’s a convicted felon and he was on probation for a series of arson and he committed in another jurisdiction,” said Major Eric DeFelice.
Ethridge also reportedly had a fresh cut on his hand which he said he got while looking through a donation box on the property of the synagogue.
Blood was found on the front passenger door where the window was smashed and the fire was set, police say.
The two eventually admitted to breaking into the car and starting the fire.
“Hopefully they’ll be held accountable and receive the help that they need because obviously, they need some help,” Leef said.
They were each arrested and charged with Burglary of an Authorized Emergency Vehicle and Arson 2nd Degree.
Damage to the vehicle is estimated at about $3,000.
Ethridge is currently on probation in Florida for arson x4 and poss/use hoax bomb.
The cruiser was reportedly not used for routine patrol and is used to deter crime.
“They don’t use it. It just takes up space in their parking lot,” Leef said. “We’d rather have it take up space in our parking lot.”