Spring Hill, FL – Hernando County sheriff’s deputies were investigating the case of a marked patrol vehicle that was intentionally set on fire last week when a drunken man walked up to them and confessed to igniting the blaze, according to investigators.
Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) deputies and Hernando County Fire and Emergency Services (HCFES) personnel responded to the parking lot of an apartment complex near Portillo Road and Northcliffe Boulevard shortly before 5 p.m. on Dec. 7 after 911 operators began receiving calls about a marked HCSO patrol vehicle that was on fire, the sheriff’s office said in a press release on Dec. 8.
A photo of the burning patrol SUV shared by the HCSO showed orange flames shooting out of the area around the fuel door behind the rear passenger door.
“Further investigation revealed trash and other items located directly under the gas tank, near the back passenger wheel,” the sheriff’s office said. “Detectives believed the items were placed to deliberately set the patrol vehicle on fire.”
A privately-owned vehicle parked near the patrol SUV was also damaged by the blaze, according to the HCSO.
The investigation into the suspected arson had barely gotten underway when a man approached detectives and told them he was the one who set the fire, the sheriff’s office said.
They detained the man, who has since been identified as 48-year-old Anthony Thomas Tarduno.
According to investigators, Tarduno was interviewed by detectives and reiterated that he was the one who ignited the blaze.
He allegedly told them he was “intoxicated,” and that he does “stupid things” when he gets “drunk,” the HCSO said.
According to detectives, Tarduno explained that he had been downing drinks at a bar on Northcliffe Boulevard and that he eventually left the bar on foot shortly before 4:30 p.m.
“While walking, Tarduno noticed the patrol vehicle and decided he’d like to set it on fire,” the HCSO said. “He went to a nearby dumpster and grabbed a bag of garbage. Tarduno then placed the bag under the patrol vehicle and used a lighter to set it ablaze.”
The suspect said he headed back to the bar once the fire got going, but that he “felt bad” a few minutes later and decided to go back to the scene to take responsibility for his actions.
Detectives said Tarduno was cooperative throughout the investigation, and that he even let them know that he is a “professional arsonist” who has been convicted of multiple similar offenses in the past.
He allegedly told investigators that he didn’t target the SUV specifically because it was a patrol unit, and assured them that “any car that had been parked there would have been set on fire,” according to the HCSO.
Tarduno’s prior arrests include indecent exposure, arson, and driving while suspended or revoked.
He is now facing two new counts of arson.
Tarduno was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center on a $30,000 bond.