Sheriff: ‘Professional arsonist’ admits setting fire to cruiser

A man who described himself to deputies as a “professional arsonist” is facing charges for setting fire to a deputy’s cruiser.

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A marked Hernando County Sheriff’s Office vehicle was found burning in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Spring Hill on Wednesday afternoon. In a news release, deputies said that after the fire was extinguished, an inspection showed severe damage in and around the rear passenger area of the car, near the gas tank. Deputies also found “trash and other items located directly under the gas tank, near the back passenger wheel,” and said the items were placed there to deliberately set the vehicle on fire.

While detectives were at the scene, a man approached them and claimed responsibility for starting the fire. Deputies said in the news release that the man, identified as Anthony Thomas Tarduno, said he was intoxicated and that “when he gets ‘drunk’ he does ‘stupid things.’”

Tarduno allegedly told the detectives that he had seen the patrol vehicle after leaving a bar where he had been drinking and “decided he’d like to set it on fire.”

Deputies said that Tarduno decided to return to the scene and confess to deputies because he “felt bad” several minutes after starting the fire.

In the news release, deputies described Tarduno as “cooperative” and said he told investigators he was a “professional arsonist” and has previously been convicted for similar crimes. He told officers he did not target the vehicle because it was marked as law enforcement. A second vehicle nearby was damaged by the fire as well.

Tarduno is being held on $50,000 bail on two counts of arson at the Hernando County Jail, according to online records.

Deputies said that Hernando County booking records show Tarduno was previously arrested for arson in 2012.

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