COLUMBIA — Columbia Police charged a man with arson Monday after receiving a call about a disturbance involving a gun at Park de Ville Place. Firefighters were also present at the scene after the situation escalated to involve a structural fire.
As a result of the weapon report, Paxton Keeley Elementary and Smithton Middle School were on lockdown for about ten minutes. No one was injured.
Community Relations Coordinator for Columbia Public Schools Michelle Baumstark said the lockdowns occurred around 10 a.m. as a precautionary measure because of the proximity of the incident to the schools.
The schools are operating summer school and had several hundred children in each building, Baumstark said.
Sgt. Jill Wieneke of the Columbia Police Department said a domestic argument between Nicholas Gibbs, 29, and his girlfriend took place Monday morning.
A female caller told police that Gibbs had threatened to kill himself or someone else if the police became involved.
When the police arrived, they found the woman unharmed, and she was brought safely from the apartment. Wieneke said Gibbs was confrontational and belligerent. He came to the side deck of the residence several times, claiming he was armed with an AK-47 and explosive devices.
Gibbs also claimed he used the explosives to booby trap the doors of the second-floor residence and that he started a fire.
When the fire department arrived, smoke and flames were visible on the east side of the residence, the news release said.
Columbia Fire Battalion Chief Steve Sapp said no explosives or booby traps were found when firefighters entered the residence.
The bulk of the fire was in two bedrooms and the connecting hallway, Sapp said. He said no preliminary damage report has yet been made.
Wieneke said all condominium residents were able to evacuate during the time of the incident, and no one would be displaced overnight.
Gibbs was arrested after climbing down the side of the deck on the east side of the residence and taken into custody, Wieneke said. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
Gibbs has been charged for arson and may later receive additional charges. Sapp said the police and fire departments are still investigating how the fire was started.