Forensic Evidence Aids in Arson Arrest

Shortly after midnight on January 13th, 2019 members of the Watervliet Police & Fire Departments were dispatched to 313 19th Street for a report of a structure fire. Upon their arrival, first responders discovered a significant fire on the back porch of the occupied building, which contained two storefronts and several apartments. Watervliet Police Officers began the emergency evacuation of the building. Simultaneously the Watervliet Fire Department began their fire suppression efforts. The fire was extinguished and there were no injuries. Detectives from the Watervliet Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Unit along with fire investigators from the Watervliet Fire Department collaborated with arson investigators from the New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services bureau to determine the cause and origin of the fire. The fire was labeled as arson and an immediate criminal investigation commenced.

Over the course of the criminal investigation, Detectives were able to locate suspicious items believed to be used to intentionally set the building on fire. These items were sent to the NYS Police Crime Laboratory for forensic analysis. The investigation stalled until recently when the results of the lab analysis yielded forensic evidence linking Shawn R. Yarter to the suspicious items. With this new information, the investigation began focusing on Yarter. Probable cause was further developed to effect his arrest.

On November 4th, 2020, Yarter was located in Ballston Spa, New York by WPD Detectives where he was subsequently taken into custody. Yarter was charged with Criminal Mischief in the 3rd degree (Class D Felony), Arson in the 2nd Degree (Class B Felony), and two counts of Reckless Endangerment in the 1st Degree (Class D Felonies). Yarter was arraigned by the Honorable Judge Lamb and remanded to The Albany County Correctional Facility on $50,000 cash bail.