Wauwatosa resident accused of setting string of fires in downtown Port
A 23-year-old Wauwatosa man was charged in Ozaukee County Circuit Court Tuesday with setting a string of fires in downtown Port Washington early Sunday morning.
Matthew Gleissner is charged with one felony count of arson of a building for damaging the Ozaukee County Administration Center, four felony counts of arson to property other than a building — a trailered boat and three cars — and one misdemeanor count of attempted arson to property other than a building.
Gleissner made his initial court appearance Tuesday before Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland.
Gleissner remains in the Ozaukee County jail, authorities said. Bail was set at $40,000 by Voiland.
Port Washington Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said that, although damage from the fires was limited to buildings, there was a great potential for serious injury.
One of the early-morning fires was in a dumpster behind Pasta Shoppe, which has residences on its upper floors, Hingiss said. If the building had caught fire, he said, “we could have been looking at homicide.”
That fire was confined to the dumpster, Hingiss said.
Gleissner was identified as the suspect after officers investigating a 3:45 a.m. fire at the Ozaukee County Administration Center obtained a surveillance tape of the incident, Hingiss said.
The video showed a man walk up to a dumpster in the alley, prop it open with a box, then light another box on fire and place it inside, according to the criminal complaint. The fire destroyed two dumpsters and the surveillance camera, caused extensive damage to the stone facing of the wall and the roof, and destroyed an electrical transformer.
Officer Jerry Nye, who had ticketed Gleissner earlier that night, recognized him on the video, the complaint states. At the request of the Port police department, Gleissner was arrested by Wauwatosa police when he returned home, Hingiss said.
When shown a photo from the surveillance camera, Gleissner told officers the man looked like him but he did not recall being in the alley or starting the fire, according to the complaint. His memory was foggy, he said.
Gleissner told police he was in Port Washington for Fish Day on Saturday, and after the fireworks show he went to Schooner Pub, according to the complaint.
Early Sunday, police went to the tavern after receiving a report of people on the top deck throwing items at people below. Gleissner was yelling at people, asking if he should throw a cigarette at them, and refused to stop when asked by officers, according to the criminal complaint. He was then told to leave the tavern.
When Nye returned to the tavern shortly before 2 a.m., Gleissner was sitting at the bar. He was ticketed for disorderly conduct and told not to return to any taverns in the city for the rest of the night.
The first of the fires, in the Pasta Shoppe dumpster, was reported at 2:45 a.m., the complaint states.
Just after 3 a.m., police received a call of a trailered boat on fire in the 300 block of East Pier Street, the complaint states. The boat was destroyed.
About 3:45 a.m. police were called to a dumpster fire behind the Ozaukee County Administration Center on West Main Street.
Later in the morning, police received reports from four people that someone had attempted to set their cars on fire, the complaint states.
In one case, paper and the car owner’s manual were pushed under the passenger’s seat and set on fire while the vehicle was parked on North Park Street, the complaint states. The fire appeared to have burned itself out, melting some of the carpeting, but it did not spread much beyond the ignition site.
In another case, a car owner found several no-parking signs that had been set on fire in her vehicle, which was parked on West Michigan Street. The owner also found the car manual on the floor.
Fire was also set in a car parked on West Oakland Avenue, where an extensive hole was burned in the carpet and the radio and other control knobs were “completely melted away,” the complaint states.
The fourth vehicle was parked on South Keeney Avenue, causing damage to the passenger seat, visor and console.
Hingiss said the police department also fielded a report that someone attempted to set fire to two portable toilets on Moore Road.