Writer faces first-de­gree charge for blaze at Shoal Creek home

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO &STATE - By Clau­dia Grisales Amer­i­cAn-StAteS­mAn StAFF cgrisales@states­man.com, 912-5933

Writer Michael Point set the Shoal Creek home where he was fac­ing evic­tion on fire and now faces a first-de­gree felony charge for ar­son, ac­cord­ing to an ar­rest af­fi­davit filed Tues­day by the Austin Fire Depart­ment.

The fire erupted July 21, af­ter Point, 60, poured a trail of gaso­line through­out the house, along a hall­way and to a front bed­room, caus­ing ex­ten­sive fire and smoke dam­age at the home in the 6100 block of Shoal Creek Boule­vard, the af­fi­davit said.

A wit­ness saw a man “break through the win­dows on the front of the house, with … in­tense fire erupt­ing from the win­dows and room im­me­di­ately af­ter the man jumped through the win­dows,” the af­fi­davit said. “The wit­ness said the man then fled from the scene.”

A next-door neigh­bor gave po­lice a writ­ten apol­ogy that they think Point left, the af­fi­davit said. In the note, Point apol­o­gizes “for leav­ing his car in front of his neigh­bor’s house for rea­sons ‘which will be ob­vi­ous by the time you read this,’ ” the af­fi­davit said.

Point was found three blocks from his home by Austin po­lice. He had burns and lac­er­a­tions on his ex­trem­i­ties and was taken to Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter Brack­en­ridge, the af­fi­davit said.

He smelled of gaso­line when in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­ter­viewed him at the hos­pi­tal, the af­fi­davit said. There, when asked about the cause of the fire, Point replied, “gas can,” the af­fi­davit said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded that fumes from the poured gaso­line may have been ig­nited by the pi­lot light on a wa­ter heater, the af­fi­davit said.

Ac­cord­ing to court records re­lated to the evic­tion pro­ceed­ings, Point had been a ten­ant at the rental home since 2006 and was more than two months be­hind on his monthly $1,295 rent. Point was given no­tice to va­cate the prop­erty July 2.

The land­lord claimed Point should be evicted be­cause there was “fail­ure to pay rent as agreed,” the court records said. Point was slated to ap­pear in a court hear­ing con­nected to the evic­tion on July 22, the day af­ter the fire erupted at the home.

Dam­age was es­ti­mated at $250,000 for the struc­ture and $100,000 for the con­tents, Austin fire of­fi­cials said. The 1,656-square-foot home was built in 1954, ac­cord­ing to Travis County prop­erty records.

Point has been a free­lance writer for nu­mer­ous lo­cal and na­tional pub­li­ca­tions, and spe­cial­ized in writ­ing about mu­sic and pro­fes­sional base­ball. Point fre­quently con­trib­uted sto­ries on jazz and blues mu­sic to the Amer­i­can-States­man in the 1980s and 1990s.

More re­cently, he cov­ered the Round Rock Ex­press’ first three sea­sons for the States­man and has writ­ten for Down­beat mu­sic mag­a­zine, Base­ball Amer­ica and the Austin Chron­i­cle, among other pub­li­ca­tions.

A spokes­woman for Brack­en­ridge said Tues­day that Point re­mained there in good con­di­tion. He could not be reached for com­ment. Fire Depart­ment spokes­woman Michelle DeCrane said Tues­day that Point would not be taken into cus­tody un­til he is re­leased from the hos­pi­tal.

He faces bail of $75,000, the af­fi­davit said.

Michael Point Man’s land­lord sought to evict him over rent.

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