Two 20-year-old National Guardsmen who returned home to Royersford in September after a tour of duty in Iraq have been arrested and charged with torching the Chester County armory where they trained.
Authorities said suspicion focused quickly on Dominic Toye Majors and Guy Carlton Jones, who were taken into custody at 12:30 a.m. today in North Wildwood. They are charged with arson, burglary, risking a catastrophe and related offenses, police said.
Maj. George Moebius, executive officer for their battalion, said the two went AWOL during their last drill in late March, apparently to avoid a drug test.
Firefighters responded to the National Guard Armory in East Pikeland Township at 4 a.m. Thursday and found smoke and flames in the main building. The two-alarm fire was brought under control within tan hour, but firefighters found evidence of possible arson.
After criminal investigators took over the scene, they received valuable tips from two township employees, police said.
East Pikeland Township Police Chief James Franciscus said Rich Lucas, the township’s public works director, spotted a green Chevrolet Cavalier at 3:21 a.m. parked off the road near a covered bridge about 100 yards from the armory and contacted police.
Officer Joe Heyman went to investigate, found the vehicle unoccupied, surveyed the immediate area, and recorded the tag number before responding to another call, Franciscus said.
“He’s a good example of a police officer who knows his beat and checks for details,” Franciscus said.
Later, after responding to the fire, Heyman saw footprints in the wet grass leading toward the Chevrolet, which was no longer there, the criminal complaint said.
Moebius said fire investigators believed the blaze was an “inside job” after finding damage that “seemed personal,” such as a flag on the floor and a molotov cocktail next to a keystone.
He said when asked to identify any soldiers who might have had “issues,” he said Majors and Jones came to mind. He said they disappeared after a urinalysis was announced and Guard officials had been unable to contact them.
That information dovetailed with the suspicious Chevrolet, which was registered to Majors’ mother in Coatesville, the complaint said.
The complaint said the drug test would have been a “secondary” test for Majors, who was assigned to the 3rd Platoon as a reservist and had failed a drug test in early March.
During the execution of a search warrant yesterday at Majors’ Royersford residence in the 5500 block of Spruce Street, police found a Pennsylvania National Guard duffle bag with an odor of gasoline, and a Walmart receipt for Perrier water bottles – consistent with the Molotov cocktails found at the scene – a funnel and a partially-filled, plastic gasoline container, the complaint said.
Majors and Jones were viewed purchasing the items in surveillance video from WalMart, the complaint said.
“It’s a shame,” Moebius said, adding that the men “did well” during their eight to nine months in Iraq.
North Wildwood Police Capt. Matt Gallagher said the two are awaiting bail at Cape May County Jail. He said they were picked up on fugitive warrants and are not likely to be released until Pennysylvania claims them.
Pennsylvania State Police Sgt. Brandon J. Daniels of the Embreeville barracks said this morning that he did not expect Jones and Majors to be returned to Pennsylvania today.
Gallagher said the pair came to the attention of North Wildwood police after Officer Michael Griser stopped a group that included Majors on the beach at 11 p.m., an hour after it closed. After learning of the fugitive warrant, police found Jones at a home in the 100 block of E. Eighth Ave., Gallagher said.
In the military, the pair likely face an unhonorable discharge, Moebius said, adding that if they received any money for bonuses or college tuition, it would need to be returned.
Moebius said the fire caused significant structural damage to the building, which was used by 10 full-time workers during the week and entire units for periodic weekend drills. He said he hopes it can be repaired within the next three months.
Moebius said if a posting on Jones’ MySpace page had been called to his attention, Jones would have been counseled to remove it.
Under occupation, Jones wrote: “killing people.”