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Man suspected of setting fire to Fort Collins condo appears in court

5:46 PM, Nov 4, 2011   |    comments
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Benjamin David Gilmore, 29, of Fort Collins was arrested Thursday night and is suspected of first-degree arson, second-degree burglary and criminal mischief in connection with the fire, which burned the building at 311 Mason Street and damaged the next-door Penny Flats residential and mixed-use retail building.

Gilmore spoke briefly at the hearing, which lasted less than 10 minutes.

"I'd just like go home with my wife," he said tearfully.

A spokesperson for the ATF says initially, it was a fire investigation and that there was nothing that indicated the fire was incendiary or arson.

"We have chemists, we have accelerant detection canines that are also brought the the scene as well as structural engineers," Brad Beyensdorf said. "We can say this was an incendiary fire, that this was a set fire."

Beyensdorf says a lot of work went into the investigation, but won't comment on exactly what they found that led them to believe it may be arson.

A woman who identified herself as Gilmore's mother commented on the bond, which a judge set at $250,000.

"I don't think the bond needs to be that high," she said.

"He didn't do it," his wife, Rebekah Gilmore, said Friday morning when called by the Coloradoan. She said he has no connection with the buildings and has "no idea" why he is suspected of the crime. He's never been accused of arson, she said.

Gilmore, a registered Republican, was an early supporter of Occupy Fort Collins, which has set up camp a block away from where the fire burned. In an online video, Gilmore said he was frustrated by the income disparity between executives and workers, and told people they should turn in their paper money for gold and other metals.

"We are taking over Fort Collins Incorporated and establishing Fort Collins Unincorporated," he said in the video.

Gilmore spoke at a Fort Collins City Council meeting earlier this week seeking more support for Occupy Fort Collins.

"So I'll ask you, 'Can you give the Occupy movement permission to do what we want, to stay where we are?'" he asked when he spoke at the meeting.

One of the supporters of Occupy Fort Collins, Julia Crisafi, attended today's hearing, concerned about the national attention the story might draw.

"I cannot stand by and let it go to national news that Occupy Fort Collins is linked to arson," Crisafi said. "He may have stopped by but he is in no way a direct relation to our movement. We are peaceful protestors. We don't tolerate violence."

Crisafi got to know Benjamin solely through the context of Occupy Fort Collins. She said she doesn't know if he's guilty or not but showed up to court to find out what happened.

The Gilmores own Copoco's Honey and Bee Products in Fort Collins. A woman in the store this morning declined comment.

Occupy Fort Collins members said this morning that they are committed to nonviolence, and they had no idea of any link between Gilmore and the fire. Federal investigators have repeatedly visited the camp over the past several days.

"We're not trying to be civilly disobedient," said Melanie Schure, a student and Occupy Fort Collins member. "Nobody here is looking to cause problems."

According to a news release, investigators established probable cause and Gilmore was detained on a court order Thursday. He was transported to the Larimer County jail at about midnight.

The damage to the building is estimated at approximately $10 million.

Gilmore's booking photograph is not being released at this time because it may be used in a future photo lineup.

((KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation and Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved,)

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