Man accused of arson, burglary

Keith J. Wheeler pleaded not guilty to arson, burglary, resisting arrest and criminal trespass.

An Oak Harbor man is being held on $50,000 bail after allegedly attempting to burn down a property under construction, breaking into a trailer home and fleeing police on Christmas Eve, according to a police report.

Keith J. Wheeler, 35, pleaded not guilty in Island County Superior Court Jan. 10 to arson in the second degree, burglary in the second degree, resisting arrest and criminal trespass in the first degree.

Wheeler, who appeared in court via video from the jail, was in restraints and surrounded by corrections deputies because of his violent behavior, according to a deputy prosecutor. Judge Christon Skinner noted that restraints in court bring up possible constitutional issues, but he allowed them due to safety concerns and the fact that a jury wasn’t present.

The police report states that Wheeler broke into a commercial property under construction north of Oak Harbor. Plywood and plastic sheeting over the building’s opening had been removed to make room for a person to enter the building.

Numerous scorch marks on doors and a door frame, a matchbox and several burnt matches found in the building suggested that Wheeler tried to light the building on fire from the inside, the report states.

Wheeler was later apprehended at a residential property across the street. The caretaker of the property, a mobile home which had no current tenants, told police she had gone into the property to turn on the heat and saw Wheeler standing inside. The caretaker immediately left the residence and called 911, the report states.

Four police officers responded to the call. Wheeler resisted arrest, according to the report, which states that Wheeler slammed a window on the foot of an officer trying to enter the residence and ran away from the scene into the woods nearby.

The police officers pursued Wheeler, and one eventually used three pepper ball shots to stop him, the report states, adding that Wheeler continued to struggle while being arrested.

A boot print found in the building under construction appeared to match a pair of boots Wheeler left in the mobile home, the report states.