Road Rage Suspect, Would-Be Car Thief Admits to Lighting Oakland Hills Fire

A 24-year-old road rage suspect, who was nabbed by police while allegedly trying to steal a car, has confessed to setting last week's Oakland Hills fire and seven other blazes with a cigarette lighter, University of California, Berkeley police say.

Alfredo Bautista was arrested on Aug. 2, according to two police complaints — one out of UC Berkeley and the other, Oakland. The Concord man pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday. His pretrial hearing is scheduled for Aug. 15.

Oakland police said officers on Wednesday responded to a report of a car collision involving a rifle-toting suspect. The victims told police that an unknown man – identified later as Bautista – approached their vehicle and pointes his firearm at them. Afraid for their lives, they fled, officer Matthew Jung wrote in a complaint.

The suspect, however, proceeded to follow the victims and slammed his car into theirs several times. Finally, the victims’ car hit a parked vehicle on Fish Ranch Road, Jung said.

Bautista kept his rifle trained on the victims before taking off. He was arrested by University of California, Berkeley police on a separate crime, according to Jung.

The second incident began just after 2 p.m. when officer Ryan Miyamoto, with the university's police department, responded to a car theft in progress near the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Miyamoto wrote in a complaint that he found a shirtless Bautista near the stolen car and realized that he matched the description of the man sought by the Oakland Police Department in connection with the road rage case.

Bautista is also accused of leaping over a fence at the UC Berkeley Field Station for the Study of Behavior, Ecology and Reproduction.

According to Miyamoto, Bautista did not own the car or have permission to drive it. Witnesses told police that he had climbed into the vehicle, started it and begun to drive away when they stopped him.

Upon detaining Bautista, Miyamoto said he found a cigarette lighter in the suspect's pocket.

Bautista later confessed to police that he had used the lighter to start eight fires, including the five-alarm blaze that scorched 20 acres near Grizzly Peak in the East Bay Hills.

Miyamoto arrested Bautista on suspicion of vehicle theft, arson of a structure or forest land, and arson that causes great bodily injury. He was taken to the UC Berkeley jail before being transferred to the Oakland Police Department.

Upon being positively identified by the people who he aimed his rifle at earlier in the day, Bautista was also charged with brandishing a firearm and assault with a deadly weapon, which in this case is his vehicle, according to Jung.

Shannon Hernandez, who frequents the area where Bautista allegedly lit the five-alarm blaze, said, "It's definitely good they got him instead of him keeping on doing what he's doing."

Hernandez said she's grateful someone is in custody for the bizarre case of road rage that then escalated to arson.

"This could have been worse than it was," she said. "Thank God it wasn't."

NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez contributed to this report.

Read the police complaints below:

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