David A. Hickman Sentenced to 20 Years in Federal Prison for Using Fire and Explosives to Damage and Destroy Buildings Used in Interstate Commerce
Serial Arsonist Ignited Fires that Damaged and Destroyed Nine Buildings and Terrorized Albuquerque Community in November 2016
ALBUQUERQUE – U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera today sentenced David A. Hickman, 29, of Albuquerque, N.M., to 20 years of imprisonment for his conviction on five arson charges, which he pled guilty to under an agreement in which he also acknowledged committing or attempting to commit four additional arsons. Hickman will be on supervised release for three years after completing his prison sentence. Hickman also was ordered to pay $406,348 in restitution to Starbucks, one of the businesses that was a victim of Hickman’s criminal conduct. The Judge will enter orders of restitution as to the other victims at a later date.
Hickman’s sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, Special Agent in Charge John J. Durastanti of the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Chief Michael Geier of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), and Chief Paul Dow of the Albuquerque Fire Department.
“Today a dangerous individual who terrorized the residents of Albuquerque in November of 2016 through a series of deliberate and premeditated violent acts that targeted innocent victims was sentenced for the devastating damage and destruction he maliciously caused,” said U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson. “I commend the Albuquerque Fire and Police Departments for their heroic efforts to apprehend David Hickman and bring him to justice without the loss of human life, and the FBI and ATF for their steadfast commitment to working with their local partners to safeguard the Albuquerque community.”
“For several days in November 2016, when Albuquerque residents should have been enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday and time with their families, our city was hit by a wave of arsons that put a lot of people on edge,” said Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division. “Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies quickly sprang into action, working together to do what we do best: Protect the American people, and catch those who would do harm. The FBI is proud to have been a part of a team that didn't rest until the person responsible for these malicious fires was brought to justice.”
“I want to commend the efforts of the ATF agents and members of the ATF National Response Team who worked so tirelessly in bringing justice to the people of Albuquerque,” said Special Agent in Charge John J. Durastanti of the Phoenix Field Division of the ATF. “I hope today’s sentence brings resolution not only to the victims but to the business owners that were equally affected.”
Chief Michael Geier of the Albuquerque Police Department added, “The cooperation between all partners in this case epitomizes our vision of ‘One Albuquerque,’ in which we all work together to make communities safe.”
“The arrest, prosecution, and sentencing was yet another example of a successful collaboration between our local, state, and federal agencies working together to protect our citizens and great city,” said Chief Paul Dow of the Albuquerque Fire Department.”
Hickman was arrested on Nov. 28, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging him with maliciously damaging and destroying, and attempting to damage and destroy, by means of fire, a building, an Old Navy store located in Albuquerque, used in interstate commerce on Nov. 26, 2016. APD officers arrested Hickman in the early hours of Nov. 26, 2016, and later transferred him into the custody of the FBI. Hickman was arrested shortly after an APD officer responded to the Pavilions at San Mateo shopping center after hearing “small explosions” coming from the area. When the officer arrived at the shopping center, he observed Hickman running into and out of the Old Navy store located in the shopping center, which was on fire. Hickman was indicted on one count of maliciously damaging a building, the Old Navy store, by fire on Dec. 20, 2016.
Hickman pled guilty on Oct. 11, 2017, to five counts of damaging and destroying buildings used in interstate commerce by fire or explosive. Although Hickman pled guilty to five arson counts, in his plea agreement, Hickman acknowledged igniting arson fires that damaged or destroyed nine businesses engaged in interstate commerce in Albuquerque between Nov. 16, 2016 and Nov. 26, 2106. In entering the guilty plea, Hickman admitted that, between Nov. 16, 2016 and Nov. 26, 2016, he ignited and attempted to ignite nine separate fires at the following businesses in Albuquerque:
- Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 800 Broadway Blvd. NE;
- Project Defending Life, located at 625 San Mateo Blvd. NE;
- Carlisle Condominiums, located at 3600 Central Ave. SE;
- Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 5301 Gibson Blvd. SE;
- Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 4407 Lomas Blvd. NE;
- Starbucks Coffee Shop, located at 3400 Central Ave. SE;
- Barnes & Noble Bookstore, located at the Coronado Mall at 6600 Menaul Blvd. NE;
- Shred-it, located at 1415 Broadway Blvd. NE; and
- Old Navy, located at 4900 Cutler Ave. NE.
However, Hickman entered guilty pleas to committing five arsons that damaged and destroyed the following businesses:
- Igniting the fire at the Carlisle Condominiums located at 3600 Central Ave. SE, on Nov. 23, 2016, by using glass Mason jars filled with ignitable liquid. The Carlisle Condominiums were under construction and approximately 80% complete when Hickman broke into the construction site and ignited the fire. The damages caused by the fire exceeded $8 million.
- Setting the fire at the Starbucks Coffee Shop located at 5301 Gibson Blvd. SE, on Nov. 25, 2016, by firing a gun into a glass door so he could enter the shop, and throwing glass Mason jar devices into the building together with firecrackers and a kerosene container that would ignite and fuel the fire.
- Setting the fire at the Shred-it building located at 1415 Broadway Blvd NE, on Nov. 26, 2016, by firing a gun into a glass door so he could enter the building and use glass Mason jar devices and road flares to ignite fires in the building.
- Setting the fire at the Barnes & Noble bookstore building located at the Coronado Mall at 6600 Menaul Blvd. NE, on Nov. 26, 2016, by firing a gun into a glass door so he could enter the building and use glass Mason jar devices and a road flare to ignite fires in the store. The damages caused by the fire exceeded $800,000.
- Setting the fire at the Old Navy store located in Albuquerque on Nov. 26, 2016, by shooting several rounds from an assault rifle into the windows of the store so he could enter the store and ignite several fires inside the store using glass Mason jar devices with a road flare. The damages caused by the fire exceeded $690,000.
APD arrested Hickman shortly after he departed the Old Navy store. At the time of arrest, Hickman was wearing a holster with a handgun and had a flare in his belt. In Hickman’s vehicle, APD officers found an assault rifle, glass Mason jar devices, tape, ammunition, kerosene, tannerite, and motor oil. While executing a search warrant at Hickman’s residence, officers found similar materials.
Hickman has been in federal custody since his arrest.
The Albuquerque Division of the FBI, the Albuquerque office of the ATF, ATF’s National Response Team, the Albuquerque Police Department, and the Albuquerque Fire Department conducted the investigation of this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred J. Federici prosecuted the case.