Compiled by AFD Capt. Rick Murray and Dennis Evanosky
The Alameda County District Attorney (DA) dropped all charges were dropped last Friday against one of the two alleged suspects accused of setting several arson fires in Alameda in September.
Alameda resident Stephen Petersen learned he was finally cleared of all wrongdoing when he went to the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse to enter his plea. The DA cited new evidence as the reason for dropping the three felony charges against the 27 year old.
Alameda police are now saying the other suspect, Andrew Gutierrez, will be held responsible for the seven arson fires that took place on Sept. 28. Gutierrez now faces six different counts of arson. The 22-year-old is being held at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, where he has been since his arrest on Sept. 28. His bail has been increased to $4.4 million, according to the Alameda County inmate tracker website. The transient from Puerto Rico is due back in court on Dec. 15 for his plea hearing and bail motion.
The series of fires near the Park Street Business District on Sept. 28 caused about $3 million in damage to 11 different homes and businesses. Gutierrez was arrested near Park Street that Sunday morning before 5 a.m., according to court documents. Police arrested Petersen that night outside a detached-garage fire at 2103 San Jose Ave.
Petersen maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest. He told several news outlets that this was a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
About a dozen of Petersen’s friends and family members were in the courtroom of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gregory Syren when it was announced that prosecutors were no longer proceeding with the case against him.
Now that Petersen is cleared of all charges, the musician is getting back to his passion. Petersen has returned to hosting an open mic at Rooster’s Roadhouse at 1700 Clement Ave. Petersen has also been advocating for people to donate to the victims of the arson fires.
Petersen wrote a Facebook post on Nov. 4 asking people to visit gofundme.com/angelas and donate to the renovation of the restaurant. He is also asking for donations to help him pay for his legal fees. To donate, visit www.freestephenpetersen.com.