Prosecutors have charged a Fort Lewis College associate professor with trying to destroy a grocery store earlier this month when he allegedly set fire to a bag of tortilla chips in aisle No. 7 of south City Market in Durango.
Law enforcement says the Oct. 5 fire caused between $20,000 and $100,000 in damage, according to a criminal complaint filed in 6th Judicial District Court.
Bradley Todd Clark, 46, started the fire that caused more than $20,000 in damages but less than $100,000 in damages, according to a criminal complaint filed in La Plata County Combined Courts by the District Attorney’s Office.
Clark is accused of three Class 4 felonies – attempted first-degree arson, second-degree arson and criminal mischief – which each carry a possible penalty of two to six years in prison and a $20,000 to $500,000 fine.
The Durango Police Department arrested Clark on Oct. 6 – about 24 hours after the Durango Fire Protection District responded to City Market, according to arresting documents. Fire Marshal Karola Hanks told law enforcement she believes “the fire was most likely started with a lighter of some sort.”
The fire did not spread beyond the tortilla chip section and burned for about two or three minutes, according to arresting documents. There were more than 50 people in the grocery store when the business was evacuated, law enforcement wrote in an affidavit.
A witness noticed “several bags of chips burning” in aisle 7 about 34 seconds after Clark allegedly left the area for a self-checkout stand, law enforcement deduced from surveillance footage. Clark – after allegedly torching the bag of chips – bought items at the self-checkout stand using a City Market value card and a Visa debit card, both registered in his name.
Clark was also arrested in 2007 for arson for starting a dumpster fire, though prosecutors ultimately dropped those charges. Since his most recent arrest, some FLC staff have called for campus police to reopen a 2008 unsolved fire, which happened a few doors down from Clark’s office in the political science department. The fire was set to the office door of a fellow associate professor with whom Clark had known conflicts.
FLC placed Clark on administrative leave after the City Market allegations. Law enforcement restricted him from accessing south City Market and the college.
Clark is an associate professor in the political science department. He joined FLC in 2006.