Bradenton serial arsonist says he’s had ‘problem with fire’ since he was young and needs help

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FEMA Regional Administrator, Andrew Velasquez and Fire Commissioner for the city of Chicago, Jose Santiago discuss fire prevention and safety.
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FEMA Regional Administrator, Andrew Velasquez and Fire Commissioner for the city of Chicago, Jose Santiago discuss fire prevention and safety.

Shawn Michael Vincent has had a “problem with fire” since he was about 10 years old, he said in a letter to the judge presiding over his case on arson charges.

It wasn’t until a federal agent asked him during a recorded interview, however, that the Bradenton resident claims he counted the number of fires he had set in his lifetime.

Asked to provide a ballpark figure, Vincent said he had started “about a hundred give or take, maybe one or two,” according to a transcript of that interview.

But Vincent believed he needed help and didn’t belong in prison, he went on to say. In his letter to the judge ahead of his sentencing hearing, Vincent said he didn’t know why he had this problem, but would like to get the mental health treatment he claims he never received.

“Maybe I will be able to control how I think to where the thought of wanting to play with fire will never happen again,” Vincent wrote.

But despite trying to convince Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas that what he needed was to be sent to a state hospital to get psychiatric help, Vincent on Friday was sentenced to serve 18 years in prison followed by 12 years probation.

Shawn Michael Vincent, 46, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after admitted to intentionally setting two Bradenton homes on fire. A serial arsonist, Vincent estimates he has started about 100 fires in his lifetime. Manatee County Sheriff's Office Provided photo

Vincent admitted to setting the two fires that resulted in the prison time.

On Sept. 18, he pleaded no contest to three counts of first-degree arson, one count of second-degree arson and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling. He has been in custody at the Manatee County jail since his initial arrest in the two cases on May 4, 2017.

Vincent’s arrest in connection to the two fires was the result of a joint investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Bureau of Fire, Arson & Explosives Investigations and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Arson is a violent crime that not only destroys property but also negatively impacts the lives of citizens that reside in the neighborhoods,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCrary said in an issued statement.

Before setting fire to his neighbor’s home on Oct. 30, 2013, Vincent walked inside the man’s duplex apartment in the 4900 block of 18th Street West in Bradenton and asked his neighbor to come outside to drink with him and his boyfriend, according to court records. Vincent’s neighbor, who was recovering from a motorcycle accident, refused repeatedly, which angered Vincent.

When he came in to ask a third time, Vincent had already set fire to his neighbor’s motorcycle. As the fire spread to the home, Vincent insisted, “There is no fire.” The victim had to be carried out of the home.

According to Vincent’s neighbor, there had been so many fires in the area since Vincent moved in that he had sought out renter’s insurance.

Between July 4 and July 5, 2015, Vincent broke into a home in the 5800 block of Third Street East in Bradenton and started a fire in the children’s bedroom. But while the children weren’t in their room, he didn’t know that.

This was not new behavior, Vincent’s mother and boyfriend told investigators. Vincent’s criminal history includes convictions in New York for attempted burglary, attempted arson and attempted identification theft in addition to being a suspect to dozens more fires.

When he was younger, Vincent claims that he set the curtains in his brother’s bedroom on fire and then locked him in the room. According to the court records, he boasted that “I got him back” and “it was the only thing I could think of to do.”