Two arrested, face criminal charges

Renee Rosenow

Eau Claire police arrested two UW-Eau Claire students this Homecoming weekend in connection to an attempted arson case off campus.

Joshua Lueth, 20, and Kyle Kipka, 19, were arrested early Sunday morning after police investigated an attempted fire that had been reported at 1216 S. Farwell St. Both students are charged with criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct and intimidation of a witness. Kipka is also charged with attempted arson, according to a police department press release.

A third student was also arrested after police served a search warrant at the residence at 1218 S. Farwell St., deputy chief of patrol Brad Venaas said. Colin Smith, 19, was arrested after police found marijuana in his bedroom and is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of THC with intent to deliver.

Police believe the attempted arson was in retaliation for an earlier complaint against the students for disorderly conduct and loud partying, and followed on the heels of a separate incident of property damage Saturday night.

At about 4 p.m. Saturday, police responded to complaints about a loud party and handed out citations to students at 1218 S. Farwell St, Venaas said. About four hours later, an unidentified person broke part of the fence separating the neighboring properties and police were again called but made no arrests.

It wasn’t until later that the would-be arsonists tried setting the neighboring house on fire. Venaas said the students poured oil on the sidewalk and porch in front of the house as well as poured some in a mailbox attached to the front of the house, but upon lighting the oil the fire burned itself out, Venaas said.

“It didn’t carry out like maybe they wanted to,” he said, adding the house was also spray painted and that flower beds in the yard had been trampled.

“They’re all fairly serious felonies,” Venaas said, referring both to the charges stemming from the attempted arson as well as the drug charges. “Looking at potentially some good time.”

Overall Homecoming this year was busier for police than last year. Officers made 25 arrests during this weekend’s festivities, up more than 33 percent from last year’s 18.

Police also stepped up enforcement of minor ordinances, handing out 185 citations this year – a 25 percent jump from last year’s 148.

Arrest and citation numbers are preliminary, and a more detailed report will be released later, according to a police department press release issued Sunday afternoon.

“Homecoming generally went very well,” Venaas said, but added the late-night attempted arson may set back student-resident relations in the Third Ward.

“Everyone that lives in that area had worked very hard . to create a nice, safe place,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that they do that.”