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Man rescued from Olathe fire is charged with arson, attempted murder of responders

Updated: 2013-02-26T12:27:03Z

By TONY RIZZO

The Kansas City Star

A man rescued from a burning Olathe home by firefighters earlier this month has been charged with setting the fire and attempting to kill the emergency workers who probably saved his life.

Johnson County prosecutors charged 58-year-old William J. Outhet Jr. with arson and attempted first-degree murder in connection with the Feb. 1 incident in the 1400 block of North Martway Drive.

“Clearly from the charges, his intent was to harm first responders,” said Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.

Howe said he could not discuss details of the investigation. Spokesmen for the Olathe police and fire departments, which conducted a joint investigation, also said they could not comment.

But according to documents filed in Johnson County District Court, Outhet allegedly “staged” firearms around the residence and fired shots from a shotgun “towards the perpetration of the crime of premeditated first-degree murder.”

The intended victims are listed in court documents as “emergency personnel.”

No emergency personnel were injured in the incident, officials said.

Outhet lived at the residence with a roommate who owned the property. The arson charge does not state how the fire was set. Outhet, who was the only person injured, remained in a hospital Monday, according to statements made Monday afternoon in court.

He did not attend Monday’s first court appearance. His bond was set at $1 million, and his next court appearance was scheduled for March 7.

Among conditions of his bond, Outhet was ordered to “follow mental health recommendations, including taking of medication as prescribed,” online court records show.

According to media reports at the time of the blaze, firefighters pulled Outhet from the burning residence and performed CPR to revive him before he was rushed to a hospital.

Howe said Monday that he did not know Outhet’s current condition. The Johnson County Public Defender’s Office was appointed at Monday’s court hearing to represent him, but its office was closed for the day when a reporter called seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Shannon Laber, who said she was Outhet’s former girlfriend, and who went to the fire scene on Feb. 1, said he was “doing better” physically and was recovering. But she declined to discuss details of the situation.

“The family is not making any comment at this time because of the charges being filed,” she said.

Nine years ago, a similar incident in south Kansas City left a paramedic gravely injured by gunfire.

On Feb. 23, 2004, paramedic Mary Seymour was hit by gunfire after responding to a burning house in the 9400 block of Grandview Road. As police officers laid down covering fire, firefighters pulled Seymour to safety.

The resident of the burning home, who had been involved in a dispute with city officials, was found dead in the home’s wreckage along with his girlfriend.

More recently, on Christmas Eve, a 62-year-old man in upstate New York started a house fire and then fatally shot two responding firefighters. Two other firefighters and a police officer were wounded.

The gunman then fatally shot himself, officials said.

In the Olathe case, Howe said it was fortunate that no first responders were injured.

“It could have been really bad,” he said.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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