Cornered by deputies, burglar tries to set fire to bank, hang himself

LAKE ELSINORE — Reports of a burglary in progress at a Lake Elsinore bank this morning led to the eventual arrest of a Perris man who reportedly attempted to set fire to the building, tried to hang himself, and later fought with deputies trying to rescue him from the bank’s smoke-filled attic.

The bizarre incident happened at Bank of America on the 2400 block of E. Lakeshore Avenue, west of Diamond Dr., in the Mission Trails Plaza Shopping Center.


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Deputies eventually managed to apprehend 46-year-old, Jodie Michael Meza, and he was transported to an area hospital for treatment of injuries he sustained during the burglary and his subsequent arrest.

Jail records indicate sheriff’s officials booked Meza into Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of commercial arson, burglary, and resisting a peace officer. He remains in custody, held in lieu of $55,000 bail.

Deputies assigned to the Lake Elsinore Police Station responded to the bank shortly after 8 a.m., after receiving a report of a commercial burglary occurring at the location, Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant Chad Thompson explained after the incident and Meza’s arrest.

When deputies arrived at the bank they found the business had been “forcibly broken into,” said Thompson. Deputies began a systematic search of the bank’s interior and  eventually located the alleged suspect hiding in the building’s attic.

When deputies located Meza, he was reportedly starting fires inside the attic of the bank. As smoke filled the business’ attic, officials at the scene requested firefighters respond to the scene to assist extinguishing the fire.

Four engine companies eventually responded to the scene after the first arriving engine company reported seeing smoke pouring from the bank’s roof.

When deputies attempted to apprehend Meza, the man refused to be taken into custody and “attempted to hang himself,” according to Thompson.

“Officers quickly rescued the suspect, removed him from the attic, and firefighters extinguished the fire,” said Thompson, who explained, “While being detained by officers, the suspect assaulted an officer.”

Meza was eventually transported to a hospital for treatment and then booked into jail.

Thompson did not specify the nature or extent of the deputy’s or alleged suspect’s injuries.

As light smoke continued to spill from the building’s opened and ventilated doors after Thompson’s arrest, firefighters remained at the bank for about an hour conducting overhaul operations. Fire officials have not specified the extent of fire or smoke damage the bank sustained during the incident.

Anyone with additional information regarding this investigation is urged to call Officer Foster at Riverside County Sheriff’s dispatch at (951) 776-1099, or the Lake Elsinore Police Department at (951) 245-3300. Callers can refer to incident file number L181970035 and can remain anonymous.


Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 – soon to be 15 – grandchildren.

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