Palo Alto police on Tuesday night arrested an East Palo Alto man suspected of starting a fire that extensively damaged a motel room at the Glass Slipper Inn, according to a police department press release.
Investigators said the room was rented by a woman in her 20s. The woman and her estranged husband, whom she had a no-contact domestic violence restraining order against, had a verbal argument in the room. She left before the argument escalated, police said, leaving her husband alone in the room. Later the woman received a call from the motel manager informing her of the fire in her room. She returned to the motel to talk to investigators, police said.
Palo Alto fire investigators determined that the origin of the blaze appeared to be suspicious, and started an arson investigation along with the police department.
An officer from the Mountain View Police Department made contact with the husband, Miguel Angel Gamero, 22, at about 10:30 p.m. in the 1800 block of California Street in Mountain View. Gamero allegedly brandished a large pocket knife at the officer and dared the officer to shoot him, police said. Officers were able to safely take Gamero into custody. No injuries occurred during the arrest, according to police.
Police discovered that Gamero had an outstanding felony warrant for a probation violation and was also in possession of methamphetamine and narcotics paraphernalia.
Mountain View police turned Gamero over to the custody of Palo Alto detectives after learning that he was possibly connected to the arson fire.
Gamero was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for felony arson, felony assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, misdemeanor brandishing a weapon at a peace officer and possession of methamphetamine and narcotics paraphernalia (both misdemeanors).
Police said Gamero is on active probation in San Mateo County for a prior conviction of violating a restraining order. Police are also recommending new charges of violating a restraining order as a result of the contact Gamero had with his estranged wife at the motel, police said.
The two-alarm fire occurred on the second floor of the south Palo Alto motel shortly before 9 p.m. No one was in the room when the fire broke out, police said. Firefighters from Palo Alto, Mountain View and Santa Clara County knocked down the fire at about 9:30 p.m., according to the fire department.
Fire damage was limited to the one room, with some damage to the attic and water damage to adjoining rooms, police said.
Neither firefighters nor motel guests were injured in the incident, the fire department reported.
Twenty-three guests were evacuated as crews battled the blaze, police said. The American Red Cross assisted 11 people with emergency housing at the Cubberely Community Center in Palo Alto. The others worked out alternative housing arrangements, according to police.
Police closed off a segment of El Camino, between Ventura and Los Robles avenues, to traffic for 3 1/2 hours Tuesday night while firefighters battled the fire and checked the motel for fire extension. The roadways reopened at about 12:30 a.m.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the police department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to email@example.com or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.