Fires set at multiple business locations in North Lawrence; 19-year old in custody; she was arrested in different arson case just days before

photo by: Contributed

Surveillance video from a North Lawrence business captured images of a person setting a fire in a trash receptacle Wednesday night, Nov. 16, 2022, at 1010 N. Third St.

Updated at 5:19 p.m. Thursday

Lawrence police have arrested a 19-year-old woman on suspicion of setting multiple fires at or near several North Lawrence businesses on Wednesday night — one of which devastated a printing business.

Court records indicate that the woman had also been arrested in another arson case earlier in the week and was out on bond when Wednesday’s fires occurred.

A police spokesman said the fires “caused significant damage but thankfully no injuries,” and the locations included 1010 N. Third St., 100 Riverfront Road, 725 N. Second St. and 401 N. Second St.

On Thursday morning at 725 N. Second St., the home of Lunar Graphix, the damage was substantial, not only from the fire and smoke but from the water used to extinguish it. One of the owners of Lunar could be seen walking through a stench of smoke in the darkened interior and across the sodden floor as he inspected the damage to the business, which does large-format and specialty printing.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

The back of Lunar Graphix at 725 N. Second St. after Wednesday night’s fire. The fire spread into the building and caused substantial damage.

Terry Jacobsen, who owns Printing Solutions a few doors down with one of the owners of Lunar, said the big electronic printers in Lunar were almost certainly destroyed, along with most of the building’s contents, as the fire that was started outside behind the building spread into the interior. He said the sprinklers inside the building, once they detected heat from the fire shortly after 9 p.m., were activated for hours and contributed to the damage.

Jacobsen said that a web camera behind the building caught video of the suspect, who was later arrested, walking down the area behind the building and starting the fire, though the fire eventually knocked out the web cam itself.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

A look inside Lunar Graphix early Thursday, where water from the previous night’s fire covered the floor and damaged large printing machinery. A partially melted vending machine stands at left.

Jacobsen said the strip of connected buildings is owned by North Town Condominium Association, of which he is the treasurer. He believes businesses adjacent to Lunar also have smoke damage. He said his understanding was that someone had been setting fires in trash receptacles, which, in Lunar’s case, were close enough to the building to spread into it.

Kevin Joles, division chief with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical, said the incendiary fires started around 9 p.m. and spanned the 700-1000 blocks of North Second Street. He confirmed that there was damage to large garbage receptacles in the area.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

A burned trash receptacle at 1010 N. Third St. after Wednesday’s series of fires in North Lawrence.

Journal-World news partner Operation 100 News reported that emergency radio traffic indicated crews were fighting dumpster fires at All Stars, Johnny’s Tavern, Ten10 Liquor, and in the woods in the 100 block of Maple Street at various times Wednesday evening. As a result of the large number of calls, Overland Park’s fire department was dispatched to send a fire engine to Lawrence to increase the city’s fire-fighting capacity for the evening.

The city-run homeless encampment is located just off the 100 block of Maple St., which is adjacent to Johnny’s Tavern and where the arrest occurred.

Jason Hoffman, who is an area manager for Johnny’s Tavern, said Thursday that the fire at Johnny’s was in the dumpster for cardboard. He did not know if any kind of accelerant had been used to start it.

The police spokesman said a joint investigation with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical developed a description of the suspect, and she was found in the 100 block of Maple Street shortly before 11 p.m. on Wednesday. Booking logs at the Douglas County Jail show Abie Schnacke, a 19-year old with a listed address in the 1300 block of New Jersey Street, was arrested on multiple arson charges late Wednesday.

Hoffman said it was his understanding from speaking with various city officials that Schnacke was arrested in the camp; he believes that other campers helped police find her there, but that she was not someone who had been admitted to stay at the camp.

Jenn Wolsey, the city’s homeless programs coordinator, said that Schnacke has never stayed or attempted to stay at the camp, nor was she aware of her ever having been a guest at the camp. She said her understanding of what occurred was that when the police were trying to locate Schnacke, she ran into the camp and barricaded herself in the port-a-potties. She said Schnacke is known to have experienced homelessness in the past. Wolsey said that she had tried to provide Schnacke support on Wednesday when she saw her with other unsheltered people downtown, but that she was not sure of her current status.

An owner of Johnny’s, Rick Renfro, recently shut down his business in a kind of protest about what he saw as the city’s lack of monitoring for the camp after he and several business owners noticed a sharp increase in criminal activity, particularly after the camp size increased. At a heavily attended City Commission meeting recently he and multiple people from North Lawrence aired their grievances about the issue. He reopened his business after he was led to believe that more monitoring would take place at the site. Johnny’s also erected pipe fencing around its parking lot at its own expense.

Wolsey said that since businesses voiced concerns, the city has enacted more restrictive policies at the encampment, which has resulted in a decrease in the number of people staying there. She said initially the site was designed to be “very low barrier,” and did not include any restrictions on visitors. She said that the site no longer allows visitors, which she said has naturally caused some to leave, reducing the number of people staying in the area — including the city’s site and the adjacent campsites — from 81 to 61 people. She said it’s very rare that residents who are staying at the site create issues, and the city is in the process of hiring two additional staff members to support the site.

On Thursday, Hoffman said Johnny’s was still working through a number of issues, but said that Wednesday’s fires were a “prime” example of “why we’ve asked for monitoring — not only for the safety of the people who work here but for the safety of the homeless people in the camp.”

“There’s a lot of good people over there who are just down on their luck,” he said.

Ten10 Liquor Store, at 1010 N. Third St., was also the site of one of the fires. The store’s manager, Ajay Patel, told the Journal-World on Thursday that the business, which has been there for about two years, had not previously experienced criminal activity. But on Thursday, the store’s surveillance cameras captured footage of a woman setting a fire in a dumpster next to the store and then trying to start another fire near the front door. Patel shared the videos with the Journal-World.

On Sunday, Schnacke was arrested in a different case where she is alleged to have set a fire at 3111 W. Sixth St., which is the address of Lawrence Family Vision Clinic. Charging documents in Douglas County District Court indicate that she was charged with one count of aggravated arson in that case — a level 6 person felony that is punishable by 17 to 46 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000. She was released Monday afternoon on a $15,000 own-recognizance bond. Her next court appearance in that case is scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 23.

A manager with Lawrence Family Vision Clinic declined to comment Thursday on the incident that happened there.

Schnacke was being held without bond on Thursday and was scheduled to have her first court appearance in the latest case on Friday.

video by: Ten10 Liquor store

This is video that 10Ten Liquor provided to the Journal-World showing a scene from outside the liquor store at 1010 N. Third Street on Nov. 16, 2022.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical

Crews respond to a fire in North Lawrence on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical

Crews respond to a fire in North Lawrence on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, at Lunar Graphix.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical

Crews respond to a fire in North Lawrence on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.

— Journal-World reporter Rochelle Valverde contributed to this report.


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