Man arrested for setting fire inside gym

Santa Cruz firefighters compare notes outside of 24 Hour Fitness around 3 a.m. Tuesday where a man reportedly set fire to a rubber workout mat inside the center's large group workout room. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

SANTA CRUZ— Santa Cruz Police arrested a man early Tuesday morning after he allegedly set a fire inside a gymnasium, and then struggled with police who came to arrest him.

Christian Cruz, 24, was charged with arson, vandalism and resisting arrest. He was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail. His booking photo and bail amount were not available Tuesday afternoon.

Cruz, an employee of 24 Hour Fitness at 1261 Soquel Ave., set fire to an exercise mat in the group exercise room on the first floor of the gym at about 3:20 a.m., according to Santa Cruz Police spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke.

Cruz then threw a fire extinguisher through a window.

When another employee rushed in to put the fire out, Cruz barricaded himself further inside the room, which quickly filled up with smoke, Blaschke said.

As Santa Cruz Fire personnel worked to extinguish the flames and clear the smoke, police officers searched for Cruz in the room, where visibility was near zero, she said.

Officers who were surrounding the gym spotted Cruz when he tried to escape out a side door. Officers caught him after a brief chase.

Despite the small fire and following commotion, several people continued their workout routine in other wings of the building during the wee hours of the rainy and cold morning.


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