URBANA — A Champaign man charged with setting fire to the house he was living in and damaging two other businesses, including his father’s, in just a few hours on Wednesday is in the Champaign County Jail.
Tyler Faulkner, 33, who lived in a house in the 1300 block of South Duncan Road before fire consumed it early Wednesday, was arraigned Thursday on five felony counts related to his alleged crime spree.
He’s accused of residential arson for allegedly setting fire to a house owned by his father in the 1300 block of South Duncan Road, Champaign; arson for trying to set fire to the Original Pancake House, 1909 W. Springfield Ave., C, also owned by his father; burglary to the Original Pancake house; burglary to the nuEra Champaign cannabis dispensary in Campustown; and criminal damage to property for damage done at nuEra.
Assistant State’s Attorney Chris McCallum told Judge Brett Olmstead in court Thursday that Faulkner first came to the attention of police about 4:45 a.m. Wednesday when firefighters found him outside a home in the 1300 block of South Duncan Road that was fully engulfed in flames.
Faulkner told police that he was the only person who lived there and that he was getting ready for bed when the fire started in the ceiling. He told the officer he was glad because there were cameras in the ceiling and he believed people were watching him.
During a subsequent investigation, a dog trained in sniffing out substances used to set fires alerted to the presence of an accelerant in at least two places in the rubble of the destroyed house.
Investigators also found a gas canister that had spilled on the back porch area near the back door of the home.
As police and firefighters were investigating the house fire, police were also at the Original Pancake House, where Faulkner’s father, Eric Faulkner, had discovered a break-in about 4:30 a.m.
Officers saw a large rock had been used to shatter a glass door. A shelf was knocked over, register drawers and change were scattered on the floor, business machines were damaged, and dishes were broken in the kitchen.
Police found grease spread around the kitchen and rags stuffed in stove burners that had been turned on.
An inventory revealed $850 cash was gone and surveillance camera footage appeared to have been deleted.
Eric Faulkner told police his son was familiar with the system from having worked there previously. He left the business in January over a dispute with his father.
About two hours later, at 6:43 a.m., University of Illinois police were sent to a burglary in progress at nuEra Champaign, a cannabis dispensary at 102 E. Green St., C.
A police officer saw Faulkner hitting a store window with a shovel and ordered him to stop. Faulkner did but then got in a yellow Camaro and drove off before the officer could catch him.
A witness told the officer that before he arrived, the yellow car had backed into the building twice before a man got out to hit the window.
A UI police report said business surveillance video showed Faulkner getting into the building through a broken window. The business reported damage to a window and frame, possible structural damage to a wall and damage to a desktop computer and two scanners.
Police began searching for Faulkner to talk to him about the fire at his home and what had happened at the cannabis dispensary. A Champaign officer spotted his vehicle in north Champaign and tried to pull him over, but Faulkner refused to stop. The officer turned off his overhead lights but continued to follow the car when it pulled into a hotel parking lot on Moreland Boulevard.
Faulkner again ignored the officer’s attempt to stop the car, then pulled into a parking space and walked toward the entrance, despite the officer’s orders to stop.
Officers caught up with him in the hotel vestibule and arrested him. They took him back to the cannabis dispensary where a witness identified him as the person breaking in.
In his car, police found a five-gallon gas can and some of his belongings.
He was booked into the jail shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday.
McCallum told Judge Brett Olmstead that Faulkner had no prior convictions. Omstead set his bond at $500,000 and told him to return to court Jan. 11 for a probable cause hearing.
If convicted of the most serious of the offenses, residential arson, Faulkner faces penalties ranging from probation to four to 15 years in prison.