Ellis Library to reopen Tuesday after Saturday morning fire

Sunday, September 11, 2011 | 5:22 p.m. CDT; updated 1:32 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 12, 2011

COLUMBIA — Ellis Library will remain closed Monday as crews continue to clean up the damage caused by a fire started on the main floor early Saturday morning.

Christopher C. Kelley, 25, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of second-degree arson, second-degree burglary, two counts of second-degree tampering and seven counts of second-degree property damage in connection with the Ellis Library fire, according to a previous Missourian report.

MU police Captain Brian Weimer said Kelley was employed with the MU Police Department before Saturday's events. Weimer was not able to comment further on details of Kelley's arrest, other than that he turned himself in to MU police and was taken to Boone County Jail after the arrest was made.

Kelley's bond for the charges against him total $13,500, and the Boone County Sheriff's Department's website records indicate that bond has been posted.

The early morning fire Saturday in MU's Ellis Library was contained to the main floor, said Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Sapp. Most of the fire's damage was limited to the library's circulation windows facing Lowry Mall because of the automatic sprinkler system.

"I can't even calculate the damage that would have been done without the sprinkler system," Sapp said. He also said video footage from the library's security cameras played a significant role in the investigation.

Because of the ongoing investigation, Sapp was unable to confirm how the fire began or whether an accelerant was used. Investigators are still looking into the extent of the damage.

According to previous Missourian reporting, an automatic fire alarm alerted the Columbia Fire Department and firefighters were dispatched to Ellis Library at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

An investigation by MU police also revealed damage to computer screens, Weimer said. Police found fecal matter on a table in the fourth floor of the library during their investigation, Weimer said.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said in an email that approximately three dozen books were damaged due to the location of the fires. Most of the books were in the inter-library loan, reserve and circulation areas, and none of the books in the general stacks, offices or carrels were harmed.

A damage estimate will hopefully be available by Tuesday, Basi said.

Crews have made significant progress in cleaning the damage from the fire and water, Basi said. The library will reopen at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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Ellis Smith September 12, 2011 | 6:55 a.m.

What in God's name possessed a person to do this? If the individual were drunk or on some substance other than alcohol it might explain what happened, although it wouldn't excuse what happened.

$13,500 bond seems low for the circumstances.

What's it going to be next? Linda Hall Library in Kansas City (one of the world's great technical libraries)?

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett September 12, 2011 | 4:41 p.m.

Why only "second-degree" and "in connection with"?

Is that like someone not actually selling drugs, but "associated" with drugs in that the person was in attendance where the drugs were being used and where the drugs were sold, and may have used the drugs, too - so that the implication in the crime is "connected" as "associated with," but not the actual origin of facilitating the crime of selling the drugs?

Curious wording here.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett September 13, 2011 | 7:27 a.m.

Answer to question found on another local media forum. Posting here because the answer is so great/thorough. For informative purposes.


Second Degree Arson:

569.050. 1. A person commits the crime of arson in the second degree when he knowingly damages a building or inhabitable structure by starting a fire or causing an explosion.

2. A person does not commit a crime under this section if:

(1) No person other than himself has a possessory, proprietary or security interest in the damaged building, or if other persons have those interests, all of them consented to his conduct; and

(2) His sole purpose was to destroy or damage the building for a lawful and proper purpose.

3. The defendant shall have the burden of injecting the issue under subsection 2 of this section.

4. Arson in the second degree is a class C felony unless a person has suffered serious physical injury or has died as a result of the fire or explosion set by the defendant in which case arson in the second degree is a class B felony.

First Degree Arson:

569.040. 1. A person commits the crime of arson in the first degree when he or she:
(1) Knowingly damages a building or inhabitable structure, and when any person is then present or in near proximity thereto, by starting a fire or causing an explosion and thereby recklessly places such person in danger of death or serious physical injury; or
(2) By starting a fire or explosion, damages a building or inhabitable structure in an attempt to produce methamphetamine.
2. Arson in the first degree is a class B felony unless a person has suffered serious physical injury or has died as a result of the fire or explosion set by the defendant or as a result of a fire or explosion started in an attempt by the defendant to produce methamphetamine, in which case arson in the first degree is a class A felony.
September 12, 2011 at 9:13 p.m. swingline747 (anonymous)

(Report Comment)
Amanda Harrison September 13, 2011 | 9:53 a.m.

@Delcia Crockett: Thanks for sharing the information about first and second degree arson.

Amanda Harrison
Columbia Missourian Outreach Team

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 13, 2011 | 1:46 p.m.

That's so funny that they would bump up the charge if someone accidentally caused a fire while cooking methamphetamine. As if the person cooking the drug had intended to burn a structure. It's not like prosecutors would have other charges to use against someone cooking meth. Right?

(Report Comment)

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