Police say van fire was arson; man arrested

A vehicle fire that resulted in the death of dog early Thursday morning was determined to be an arson and resulted in the arrest of a Pine Bluff man accused of being involved.

Asika Muhammad, 18, claimed he did not set the fire, but told another person to “burn the vehicle,” Deputy Prosecutor Rik Ramsey said during a court hearing Friday.

Detective Jeremy Oswalt reported that police were called to 5501 S. Olive St., where they met the owner of the vehicle, Brandy Brenner, who wanted to report a theft.

Ramsey said Brenner reported that she had been at a friend’s house at in the 700 block of West 28th Avenue, when the friend and Muhammad started to argue, and she wanted to leave because she did not want to get involved.

Oswalt reported that Brenner said Muhammad grabbed the keys to her van and ran, and she and the friend drove to Walmart where they called police.

Brenner also reported that she had left her dog in her van, and left the doors open so the dog would have some air.

Oswalt reported that police were sent to check on the van, which was still parked on West 28th Avenue, and when they arrived, reported seeing smoke coming from the vehicle and the doors closed.

Ramsey said the fire department responded to the scene and extinguished the blaze, and the fire marshal said the fire was an arson and had been started using gasoline.

The body of Brenner’s dog was found in the back of the van, police said.

Ramsey said when Muhammad was located, he denied starting the fire, claiming he was mad at Brenner and when another person asked if he should burn the van, Muhammad allegedly said “yes.”

Pine Bluff District Judge John Kearney set a $25,000 bond for Muhammad after ruling prosecutors had probable cause to charge him with arson.

Muhammad said he would try to hire his own attorney and was told to come back to court Nov. 16.