Man arrested after allegedly setting fire at a local church, assaulting a peace officer

Man arrested after allegedly setting fire at a local church, assaulting a peace officer

Cristobal Zarate


Santa Maria Police responded to a local church in the 400 block of East Church Street about 9 a.m. Wednesday for a report of a person inside the church setting fire to objects in front of an altar.

At the time, church staff was preparing for a church service. When confronted by staff, the man walked out of the building while incoherently uttering words, according to Santa Maria Police.

Within a few minutes, one of the first arriving officers located a person matching the man's description walking near the intersection of Miller and Cook streets. The officer attempted to detain the man, who was later identified as 27-year-old Cristobal Zarate, a Santa Maria resident.

Zarate refused to stop and reportedly demanded the officer not touch him. As the officer walked toward Zarate in an effort to detain him, Zarate splashed the officer’s face and upper body with an unknown liquid irritant, according to police. Zarate physically resisted the officer's efforts to arrest him.

A Good Samaritan came to the officer’s aid and helped take Zarate into custody. Neither Zarate nor the Good Samaritan were injured during the struggle, according to police.

The officer sustained a minor injury that was caused by exposure to the unknown liquid thrown on him by Zarate. The officer was transported to Marian Regional Medical Center, where he was treated for minor injuries and released.

Zarate was transported to the Santa Barbara County Jail and booked on charges including arson, felony assault on a peace officer, felony assault with a caustic chemical, disturbing a religious meeting and vandalism charges. His bail was set at $50,000.


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