Man charged with arson after Berkeley house fire

Berkeley police officers recognized Tony Weems from surveillance video and a witness photograph, BPD said.

A homeless man has been charged with arson in connection with a Berkeley house fire last week, court records show.

A witness saw the suspect leaving the home in the 2600 block of Benvenue Avenue on March 4 just as the fire alarm started sounding, BPD said this week in response to a Scanner inquiry.

The witness had been parked outside shortly before 12:35 p.m. and saw a man, later identified as 36-year-old Tony Weems, leaving the home at Benvenue and Derby Street.

Police also found video surveillance "showing the suspect leaving the area where the fire started as smoke began to form," Berkeley police said.

Berkeley police officers recognized Weems from the video and witness photograph, BPD said.

On March 6, a patrol officer spotted Weems in the 2400 block of Dwight Way and took him into custody at about 7 p.m.

He was arrested on suspicion of arson as well as a probation violation related to drug paraphernalia, BPD said.

Berkeley house fire at Benvenue, Derby under investigation
“The owner was always somewhat of a mystery to most neighbors,” one community member told The Scanner.

According to court records, Weems was charged March 7 with the March 4 arson case as well as an arson case from Aug. 18, 2023.

Tony Weems. BPD

In that incident, police said, Weems set a dumpster on fire at the Julia Morgan Theater at 2640 College Ave.

The fire caused the building sprinklers to go off inside, police said.

Weems also has three felony burglary convictions dating back to 2006, according to court records.

As of this week, he remains in custody with a combined bail of $165,000.

He is scheduled for arraignment in one arson case on Wednesday and for a pretrial hearing in the other arson case Thursday.

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