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Alleged Arsonist Attacks First Responders With His Cane After Setting Fire 

A Florida man is accused of starting the blaze after a family fight.

A suspected arsonist attacked a police officer and a firefighter with a cane after allegedly setting fire to a mattress and sparking a house fire.

The fire, which took place during a family fight, occurred in Palm Coast, Florida, on Feb. 24.

Body camera video shows Mark McKerlie sitting on the tailgate of a fire truck and swinging his cane at first responders. Investigators said he hit a deputy in the head and a firefighter in the chest before he was subdued.

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said on Feb. 25: “48-year-old Mark McKerlie is being held without bond at the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility for starting a house fire after a family fight and then attacking a Flagler County Sheriff’s Deputy and a Palm Coast firefighter who were on the scene.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO), Flagler County Fire Rescue and Palm Coast Fire Department responded just before 10 a.m. Feb. 24 to the house fire on Blyth Place in Palm Coast.

“A fire in the back of the home forced John and Sue Beale, as well as McKerlie, to evacuate to the front yard. An FCSO Deputy then instructed them to move to the street, away from the burning home.”

Mark McKerlie, a Flagler County resident, is accused of starting a house fire and attacking a deputy and firefighter with a cane. (Flagler County Sheriff’s Office/Zenger)

Soon after, the deputy went to the back of a fire engine on the scene to check on McKerlie, where he found him sitting on the truck’s tailgate. That’s when McKerlie raised his wooden cane and “swung it aggressively.” He struck the deputy in the head and the firefighter near his armpit, according to the sheriff’s office.

The deputy quickly disarmed McKerlie and took him into custody.

Investigators determined that McKerlie started the fire when he ignited a mattress. McKerlie told authorities the incident stemmed from an altercation with family members earlier in the evening. With smoke billowing at the front door, firefighters were able to quickly contain the flames to the rear of the home, the sheriff’s office.

Mark McKerlie was restrained by authorities after attacking a deputy and firefighter with a cane in Flagler County, Florida. (Flagler County Sheriff’s Office/Zenger)

McKerlie had been undergoing narcotics withdrawal, according to his arrest report, and had argued with a family member who had thrown away his old prescription medicine, the Palm Coast Observer reported.

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said: “Taking a swing at one of our deputies or a firefighter who was trying to help was a big mistake. Thankfully, my deputy and the firefighter did not suffer any major injuries.”

McKerlie faces two counts of battery on a law-enforcement officer/first responder and one count of arson.

Edited by Fern Siegel and Kristen Butler

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