Man arrested, charged with series of arsons

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A man was arrested on suspicion of setting fire to homes of his own groomsmen and a vehicle in Antioch and Concord on the days leading up to Christmas, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District officials said Tuesday.

Joshua Van Buskirk, 33, of Walnut Creek, was arrested on Dec. 24 after an investigation by the fire district into multiple fires in which an incendiary device was used.

KTVU’s Henry Lee had an exclusive jailhouse interview Tuesday with Joshua “Jay” Van Buskirk.

In the series of arsons, police say Van Buskirk used Molotov cocktails to ignite the cars and homes belonging to his friends and groomsmen, people he played software with.

On the same day of Van Buskirk's arrest, the fire district's investigators were called to a blaze in front of a home in the 3600 block of Walnut Avenue in Antioch, where two Molotov cocktail-like devices were apparently found.

That morning, another of the devices was found at a fire in the 4100 block of Churchill Drive in Concord, according to the fire district. That blaze damaged the garage door of a home that had residents sleeping inside.

District officials said Buskirk is also suspected in a vehicle arson on Dec. 23 in the 400 block of Ridgewood Court in Antioch.

Another vehicle fire, on Oct. 12 in the 100 block of Gregory Lane in Pleasant Hill, has evidence consistent with the later events, district officials said.

Following Buskirk's arrest, a subsequent search warrant yielded evidence connecting him to the arsons, according to the district.

He was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility and is being held on $2.1 million bail.

Buskirk faces four arson-related charges, three charges of possessing a destructive device and two charges of child endangerment or abuse, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office.

He will next be in court on Jan. 12 for a preliminary hearing.

According to police, they found a hit list at Van Buskirk’s home with names crossed out. The homes he allegedly targeted and the names of those he hadn’t gotten to. Police say he left Joker or Ace of Spades cards at many of the fire scenes. In folklore, the Ace of Spades is known as the ‘death card’

“By him leaving that signature card behind, that was able to link all of these cases together, it was almost like leaving a calling card behind,” said Cpl. Chris Blakely with Concord Police.

In our exclusive jailhouse interview, Van Buskirk said he didn’t do it.

“I don’t know who could be targeting them,” Van Buskirk said. “I don’t know if it’s a set-up job or not. I’m just basing my statements off of the information I have.”

He said that within the past few months, he’s lost his job in corporate finance, his home and he’s filed for divorce from his wife of four years. He said he has been under psychiatric care and takes an anti-depressant
When asked how he felt about his friends, the alleged victims, Van Buskirk said “betrayed”.

“I’m here because within the last three to four months, with me going through all of this turmoil in my life, they haven’t been there for me,” he said. “These are people that I’ve helped through hard times and tribulations in their lives with no questions asked.

On October 9, Van Buskirk filed for divorce and just three days later, police say he went to a Pleasant Hill park where his friends were playing softball and set up a pickup truck belonging to one of them, on fire.

Then, just before Christmas, he allegedly set fire to another friend’s car in Antioch and set fires at the homes of two other friends in Concord; including one on Churchill Drive.

Inside was one of his wedding guests, his wife and their two children.

“A lot of these instances are seemingly minor, but could have resulted in disaster,” said Devon Bell, Contra Costa County deputy district attorney.