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Posted on Wed, May 26, 2010 : 2:02 p.m.

Ypsilanti police still seeking suspected arsonist in Thompson Block fire

By Amalie Nash

A month after prosecutors levied charges, Ypsilanti police haven't been able to find a 21-year-old man suspected of starting the Thompson Block fire.

Jacob Robert-Andrew Popiolek is charged with arson of real property, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.


Jacob Robert-Andrew Popiolek

Detectives say Popiolek remains on the lam, and they haven't been able to find him.

Thus far, Popiolek is the only person charged in the fire, but police said they believe several people were trespassing in the Thompson Block building to smoke and drink when they sparked a fire that gutted much of the historic structure.

The fate of the building has been a source of debate and a pair of lawsuits since the Sept. 23 fire. Earlier this month, a Washtenaw County judge ordered the City of Ypsilanti and developer Stewart Beal to set up facilitation sessions in an effort to break a stalemate on how to proceed with the building.

The Thompson Block was under renovation when the fire started. Popiolek was long a suspect in the case.

Popiolek's last known address is in Ypsilanti, but police say he may have fled the area. He is white, 6 feet 3 inches tall, 160 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts or the case is asked to call Det. Jason Cyrbok at 734-482-9872 or the main line at 734-483-9510.



Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 7:16 a.m.

The insurance fraud suspicion is clearly false since Mr. Beal (and his Daddy) didn't insure the building. This also indicates that they had not started renovating the building as earlier indicated. It would be illegal to allow workers to be on site without the proper insurance.

dading dont delete me bro

Sun, May 30, 2010 : 8:42 a.m.

insurance fraud? according to the stellar reporting, it's been reported, repeatedly, that beal didn't have this building insured. so how can there be insurance fraud w/no insurance?!?


Sat, May 29, 2010 : 1:47 a.m.

Beal did not have any insurance on the building, so it is hard to claim insurance fraud. Nash wrote, "The Thompson Block was under renovation when the fire started." That is strange, Beal didn't have any active building permits either. If the Thompson building was under renovation at the time of the fire, it appears the renovations were being done illegally.


Fri, May 28, 2010 : 5:55 p.m.

Mmmm I believe there has to be substantial evidence to press charges. About the insurance fraud should read the other articles following the story and you will see that isn't likely.


Thu, May 27, 2010 : 4:28 p.m.

I doubt this guy is guilty. This sounds more like a case of insurance fraud than malicious arson. What evidence links this guy to the crime? Eye witnesses? Was someone there and said this guy did it? Cigarette butts? Wouldn't the DNA evidence be burned off the butts during the fire? Cameras? Depot Town has no cameras pointing in the direction of the Thompson Block. It seems the cops have Beal's back and are just trying to blame this thing on a person they think is expendable. I wonder if the insurance companies involved have truly done a solid private investigation. Do their results confirm the police's results? My suspicion is that they wouldn't match.


Thu, May 27, 2010 : 8:42 a.m.

Not entirely sure why he would run. The guy who broke into and subsequently lit our rental house on fire on Ballard along with several dumpster/business fires in downtown Ypsi was sentenced to a mere 3 years probation and ordered to pay restitution. This happened in April 2007 and he never paid one penny of restitution evidenced by the letter sent to us from the insurance company saying they had not been paid and would not be pursuing any further action due to the costs involved. Every time we tried to contact the probation officer we were given the runaround. The police did a fine job in questioning suspects and had the perp in custody within 24's the follow-up piece of the system that is severely lacking. Just another example of where these kids get the attitude that they are entitled to do whatever they want without consequence.


Thu, May 27, 2010 : 7:22 a.m.

If the people are ever caught and convicted, I have the perfect punishment for them. Finish tearing it dow brick by brick. Oh, and start at the bottom.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 6:29 p.m.

I don't imagine it would be too hard if he stayed out of the area and didn't go stay with immediate relatives that the police would know to question. This isn't a huge high profile case with a lot of media coverage. If he's in hiding, the best chance at getting him is going to be a chance encounter with an officer who runs his name and finds out he has a warrant in Washtenaw County for arson.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 2:44 p.m.

Suprised they haven't picked him up by now. It's actually kind of hard for someone to disappear liek this. Unless they aren't looking too hard.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 2:31 p.m.

That will probably come out in court, once they find this guy. I'd like to hear that explanation, myself.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

I still don't understand how this fire started.