HOUSTON - A grand jury has dismissed charges against a former fireman who was named the prime suspect in starting a wildfire at George Bush Park in September, Local 2 Investigates reported Friday.
Lonnie Ray Henderson, 28, was quickly jailed on a charge of impersonating a public servant when police spotted him cruising inside the fire lines as flames chewed through the park west of Houston.
Investigators said he was suspected of setting the fire since he was wearing fire gear and directing fire crews into the exact spot where the fire was set.
A Harris County grand jury has now reviewed the case and tossed out that impersonating charge.
Henderson's attorney, Don Hecker, told Local 2 Investigates Friday, "He was trying to save his property, the property of his neighbors and the property of their neighbors. His only objective was to try and help, which he did."
Houston Fire Department Arson Squad investigators confronted Henderson with a surveillance video that showed Henderson loading firefighting gear on his ATV as the latest fire was burning nearby.
Now, two months into their investigation, no arson charges are in sight.
Henderson has now been charged with theft, accused of stealing a pair of firefighting boots that he was wearing the night of his arrest.
Hecker said, "We're going to fight this case all the way through trial."
He said investigators were too anxious to show the public that they had cracked the case, so they jumped to conclusions on that frantic night.
"What it says to me is that we jump too quickly at what we see and what we hear. We should be more careful to investigate these things before jumping," Hecker said.
"He has been through hell," said Hecker, adding that the negative publicity has hurt Henderson.
He's set for a court hearing on the theft charge early next year.
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