. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

An Artesia man was arrested Thursday on arson charges after setting a vehicle ablaze at a local car dealership.

Officers with the Artesia Police Department were dispatched at 3:45 p.m. Thursday to Tate Branch Dodge Chrysler Jeep, 919 S. First St., in reference to a vehicle fire.

Upon arrival, the APD was informed by a witness a male individual had intentionally started the fire.

Officers observed a male matching the witness’ description walking away from the First Street median and detained him for questioning. The man, identified as Cesar Jimenez, 38, of Artesia, alerted officers to a lighter in his pocket prior to a pat-down inspection.

Police proceeded to make contact with additional witnesses, one of which informed them he had moved a plastic milk bottle partially filled with gasoline away from the vehicle fire.

Another stated he had been contacted by a female caller who informed him she had seen a man matching Jimenez’ description setting the fire.

Jimenez agreed to speak with Artesia Fire Marshal Brenden Harvey, at which time he admitted to starting the blaze. According to the report, Jimenez told Harvey had had “put gas” on the vehicle, a 2018 Dodge Ram, and set the fire with the lighter. When Harvey asked why, Jimenez responded he just “wanted to do it.”

Video surveillance footage obtained from the Budget Inn across the street from the car dealership showed Jimenez approaching the truck; a short time after, a glow could be seen around the truck with smoke emanating from it.

The damage estimate for the pickup is approximately $76,000.

Jimenez was subsequently arrested on charges of maliciously or willfully starting a fire with the purpose of destroying or damaging the property of another. He has yet to be arraigned.

Jimenez, a transient individual, was previously arrested in mid-August by the APD on multiple charges of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct.