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Arson Suspects Arraigned in Court Today

Stephen Peterson's girlfriend, Shayna Butler, silhouetted in the courthouse window. (Action Alameda News)

Stephen Peterson’s girlfriend, Shayna Butler, silhouetted in the courthouse window. (Action Alameda News)

The two suspects in a series of alleged arson files early Sunday morning were arraigned in a downtown Oakland courthouse today.

More than 20 supporters of Stephen Michael Petersen, 27, including family members and his girlfriend, were in attendance.

Petersen’s girlfriend, Shayna Butler, waiting outside the courtroom before the hearing, told Action Alameda News, “I’m really nervous, I tried all day yesterday just to get the police to come check his alibi, because he was at work until 1:45am. I told the police on Sunday where he was and they still have yet to talk to anybody at his place of employment. We know where he was, the police just haven’t checked at all. He’s not the kind of person they’re making him out to be.”

Advised of a statement issued today by Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore urging the District attorney to “seek the maximum punishment under the law if the suspects are convicted,” Butler replied, “he can’t be found guilty because he’s completely innocent.”

Rooster’s Roadhouse Alibi

About an hour later, still outside the courtroom, James Bulman, who described himself as a friend of Petersen, and a co-worker at Rooster’s Roadhouse on Clement Avenue, and who asserted that he was with Petersen until at least after 1:20am on Sunday morning, when the bands stop playing and “load out,” said that police hadn’t taken a statement from him, establishing Petersen’s alibi, until about 1:30pm today. “He was with me, at work,” Bulman said.

Petersen was working as a sound technician that night, according to Bulman.

James Bulman speaks to the media at the courthouse. (Action Alameda News)

James Bulman speaks to the media at the courthouse. (Action Alameda News)

Fireside Lounge
Elizabeth Eddy, the owner of The Fireside Lounge on Webster Street, said she was in the courthouse today to support Petersen. “I’ve had a working relationship with Steve for three years now, he hosts our open mic, he performs at our open mic, his band performs at our bar, I consider him an associate, a collaborator and a friend. It is inconceivable to me that he could have done the things that he has been charged with. While I have a tremendous amount of respect for the job that the Alameda Police Department does and how difficult particularly the events of Sunday morning must have been, they have made a mistake and I truly help they recognize that quickly.”

Asked what she would say to her fellow Alameda business owners who lost their businesses in the fires, she responded, “I am deeply sorry and that I hope that we can find a way to come together as a community to help them recover from this, but that Stephen is not the person who is to blame for those actions.”

Friends and supporters of  Stephen Petersen mill outside the courtroom before the hearing. (Action Alameda News)

Friends and supporters of Stephen Petersen mill outside the courtroom before the hearing. (Action Alameda News)

Three Counts of Arson
With Petersen in the dock, Judge Gregory Syren read aloud three felony counts of arson under California Penal Code 451 to him, for fires at 1336 Regent Street, 1016 Walnut Street and 2103 San Jose Avenue and set his bail at $375,000.

Petersen asked for a public defender and is scheduled to be back in court tomorrow morning with an attorney.

After the hearing, Petersen’s father, Philip Petersen, said he was grateful that the judge reduced the bail but was disappointed that the proceedings today didn’t determine whether or not the case would move forward to trial.

“Hopefully the bail can be reduced even more and they’ll find that those three charges were the ones where he was working and we have testimony that can go to court. I don’t see what they have, they have nothing,” he said.

Gutierrez
After Petersen was arraigned, Andrew Resto Gutierrez, 22, was read four counts of felony arson charges, for fires at 1188 Regent Street, 3260 Encinal Avenue, 1617 Park Street, and 2326 Times Way.

Speaking through an interpreter, Gutierrez also requested a public defender; the judge set his bail at $620,000 and referred him to the public defender’s office. Gutierrez is expected back in court again tomorrow morning.

For both defendants, the judge deferred any further discussion of the bail amount to a hearing where the accused are present with an attorney.

5 comments to Arson Suspects Arraigned in Court Today

  • Wendy

    I don’t know this Peterson guy but I trust my sixth sense which screams he’s innocent. Something’s rotten in Denmark.

  • Rosemary

    Action Alameda–Please stay on this case.

  • karen zimmerman

    Interesting to see how this will play out. Remember that friends and family of serial killers were in disbelief as well. No one truly knows what goes on in the mind of a person. My hope is that they catch the right people, whoever they are.

  • After the arraignment on Tuesday, there was a lot of muttering among Petersen’s supporters that he neither knows Gutierrez, the 2nd accused, nor speaks any language other than English. (Gutierrez spoke to the court through an interpreter – it was hard to hear, but I believe it was Spanish.) They challenge any suggestion that the two acted in concert, and the idea that they worked independently on the same morning setting fires.

  • Tom

    I just want to thank the editor, publisher etc David Howard for his thoughts. It’s a FACT that Peterson doesn’t know this guy from Adam, and doesn’t know espanol at all. The prosecutor needs to dig into this and cut the man loose! Two guys who don’t know one another, and don’t speak a common language, just hook up spontaneously to tag team a bunch of garbage can fires?? May the truth prevail. Tom

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