CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. – A Camden County, Georgia, man was arrested last week after both county and state law enforcement officers said he purposely set brush fires that could have easily gotten out of control and damaged private property.
Justin Lackey, 20, is charged with two counts of felony arson and two counts of providing false statements to law enforcement officers, which are also felony charges. He was booked Wednesday into the Camden County jail, where he's being held without bond.
He’s been under investigation for several weeks and, according to investigators, more charges are pending.
Deputies said fires ignited in early February in several locations off of Owens Ferry Road in White Oak. Investigators said the fires were suspicious.
“Our investigators, along with Georgia Forestry investigators, began looking into the situation and determined there were arsons involved," said Capt. Larry Bruce, with the Camden County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities said they later determined Lackey was the suspected arsonist and charged him with two counts of arson. Detectives said they linked Lackey to one of the fires by boot prints they believe belonged to him. Then they called in bloodhounds to follow the prints.
“The bloodhounds began to track right back to the suspect’s residence," Bruce said.
According to detectives, while fire investigators were examining the aftermath of one fire, they spotted Lackey walking away from another wooded area where new a fire had ignited. Detectives also said they got a statement from Lackey’s fiancee, who told them she saw Lackey start fires.
Investigators said had fire crews not arrived in time, something like this could have turned into a major wildfire.
“Even though it’s isolated, if a fire got out of control, there would have been some structures that would have been easily consumed by fire," Bruce said.
One neighbor, who has known Lackey for a short period of time, was shocked to learn the fires had the potential to grow into something far more dangerous and devastating.
News4Jax spoke with Lackey's fiancee by phone Monday and she recanted the story about seeing Lackey set fires. Lackey's mother also said she doesn't believe her son is responsible for setting forest fires.
Investigators said Lackey is also charged with two counts of providing false statements because they said he shot up his home with a high-powered rifle while his fiancee was inside and then called 911 to report that someone else was targeting his home. Deputies said the home was riddled with bullets.
"They went through a wall and then went into another wall, which broke the mirror on the wall," Bruce said.
Detectives said they questioned Lackey's fiancee, who was not injured, and based on her statements, they said they determined the shots were fired by Lackey. Detectives said they also found weapons under the home, but no shell casings from the areas where Lackey reported the gunfire coming from.
Since his arrest, Lackey’s fiancee also recanted her story about the shots fired incident. She first told investigators that Lackey instructed her to hide in his mother’s room and then she saw him go outside and that’s when she started hearing gunfire. But when News4Jax spoke to her by phone, she said she heard gunshots before she hid.
“He told me to go into his mom’s room and lay down in front of her cabinet because people were firing," said Lackey's fiancee, who News4Jax has chosen not to identify because she has not been charged in any crime.
Investigators said they will be re-interviewing her.