BY MATT TROUTMAN
TRAVERSE CITY — A Traverse City man claimed voices told him to blow up his apartment and he almost followed through, police said.
Authorities were dispatched to the Bay Hill Apartments complex Monday at 12:30 a.m. on a report of a gas odor. Traverse City Police Capt. Brian Heffner said officers found a man, 53, sitting outside who told them he left his stove burners open.
“He said he turned on the gas hoping it would eventually ignite and blow up the apartment complex,” Heffner said.
The suspect told police he didn’t want to live anymore and was hearing voices in his head that told him to blow up his apartment building, Heffner said. He said the suspect told officers he left the gas running so the hot water heater’s pilot light would ignite it.
The man was arrested on an attempted arson charge, but many of his neighbors weren’t aware of the incident until later in the morning. Resident Patricia Olson said she smelled gas in the foyer that night when she took her dog for a walk.
“To me, it was like if you’re cooking and left the pilot on,” she said.
Traverse City Fire Department Lt. Chad Rueckert said firefighters’ early arrival meant gas levels were low enough to avoid evacuating the building. He said firefighters were able to enter the apartment without protective gear and open a sliding door to ventilate the unit within 30 minutes.
“The people in that complex were in no danger,” he said.
Neighbor Andrew Geralds said it still made him “nervous” that no one told him about the incident until hours afterward.
“Me and my girlfriend were both here. We were here all day,” he said. “There was no commotion, no knocks on the door.”
One resident, Laura Book, also was surprised to learn about the incident, but said it may explain a strange encounter a visiting friend had with a man outside the building earlier that evening.
“She heard a guy out there saying he was going to blow something up,” Book said.
Bay Hill Apartments site manager Nancy Milliron said the complex wasn’t informed until hours after the man was arrested. She said the complex’s attorney was arranging a quick eviction to remove the suspect from his apartment before he’s released from jail.
“We have the legal right to get (him) out in 24 hours,” she said.
The arresting officer requested a mental evaluation be conducted before the man’s arraignment in 86th District Court.