Forest City suing Thaddeus Ellenbecker over fire at police department

Thaddeus Ellenbecker

FOREST CITY, Iowa – A trial date has been set in a civil lawsuit against a former North Iowa law enforcer.

The City of Forest City is suing Thaddeus Ellenbecker for damages in excess of $10,000 for the arson fire that he allegedly started at the Forest City Police Department on October 1, 2011.  The lawsuit was filed on August 3 and on Friday, a non-jury trial was officially scheduled to begin on July 26, 2017.

In its petition, Forest City claims Ellenbecker broke a window on a lower level of the police department and threw in an aerosol can, which exploded and set the building on fire.  Forest City states the blaze rendered the building unusable and wants Ellenbecker, who was a Forest City police officer at the time, to pay for the loss of the building.

Ellenbecker was arrested after the fire and charged with 2nd degree arson and 2nd degree burglary.  He was found guilty in 2012 but that conviction was overturned by the Iowa Court of Appeals.  The Court ruled that statements Ellenbecker made to law enforcement while he was at the hospital seeking treatment for a gunshot wound should not have been admitted at trial.

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has not publicly announced when or if it will retry Ellenbecker without that evidence.

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