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Athens man faces possible arson charge for burning down apartment

By Joe Johnson

An Athens man reportedly faces a possible arson charge for setting a fire Tuesday that destroyed one apartment and damaged two others.

There was no apparent motive for setting the fire, and Athens-Clarke County police Lt. Shaun Barnett said it was believed the suspect had been in a mental-health crisis.

According to an Athens-Clarke County police report, officers responded shortly after 6 p.m. to assist firefighters who were battling a blaze at an apartment at 216 Chalfont La.

While police were en route to the location, a dispatcher advised that earlier in the day, 40-year-old Westley Michael Powell, who was living with his sister at the residence, had made threats to burn down the residence and broke into vehicles in the parking lot, according to the report.

When officers arrived, they located and took into custody Powell, who the police report noted was holding incense sticks that were on fire and had possession of two lighters.

According to the report, Powell had been screaming things that did not make sense, such as “someone is killing babies in there.”

When the man’s sister arrived home, she reportedly told police that Powell needed help.

Powell was transported to the hospital for a mental health evaluation, while police continue to investigate into whether he should be criminally charged with felony arson, said Barnett, ACCPD’s public information officer.

The police report noted that 216 Chalfont Lane was completely destroyed, and apartments 214 and 218 suffered water damage from firefighters who extinguished the blaze.

A damage cost estimate was unavailable Wednesday as the county Fire and Emergency Services Department continued its investigation, according to police.

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