A linebacker with the Spokane Shock has been arrested on federal arson charges after an early-morning fire in Liberty Lake Thursday in Liberty Lake, which he started because he said God told him to.
Spokane Shock linebacker Kevin Ellison, who is currently on league suspension, initially reported he had fallen asleep in his apartment at the Big Trout Lodge apartment complex while smoking. After the fire started, Ellison jumped from his third-floor apartment window to escape the fire.
Spokane Valley firefighters were responding to a lower-priority call about 5:30 a.m. Thursday when they saw the flames coming out of the building. They said if they had not responded so quickly, it could have been much worse.
"They were up, already getting ready to go on another call, and were responding when they diverted to this call," Capt. Pat Schaffer said.
Firefighters arrived at the scene to flames flowing out of the third floor. David Smith and his fiancée, Jana Gannon, quickly evacuated their apartment near where the fire started.
"You don't have the time. When you see the flames and smell the smoke, you have no choice," Smith said.
"It was frightening, watching all the siding melt off the building and seeing the flames shoot out," Gannon added.
During the initial investigation, Ellison told fire officials that he had fallen asleep while smoking in bed. However, the investigation found that the evidence found in the apartment did not match up to Ellison's version of events.
Ellison, 25, was re-interviewed at Deaconess Medical Center while being treated for smoke inhalation, and he confirmed that he set his bed on fire with a cigar because "God" had told him to. A fire investigator advised him of his right to remain silent, but Ellison waived his rights and again confirmed God told him to set the fire. It wasn't until after he spoke to a family member that Ellison decided to invoke his right to counsel and remain silent.
He later said that he just wanted to get out of it and "for all of it to go away."
Investigators contacted Ryan Rigmaiden, the Spokane Shock general manager, who said that he was contacted by Ellison, who "told him that he had set his bed on fire using a 'blunt' because 'God' had told him to do it."
David Tucker, Ellison's roommate and Shock teammate, told investigators that he woke to the sound of the smoke alarm early Thursday morning, and when he went to waken Ellison he told Tucker, "I'm good," but didn't open his bedroom door. Tucker left the apartment and began warning other tenants of the fire.
On Thursday evening, Spokane Shock owner Brady Nelson said that Ellison was picked up by the team six weeks ago and has been a standup player whom his teammates looked up to.
But, Nelson added, a few days ago, something changed in him.
Nelson said that the coaches started getting a weird vibe off Ellison and that on Wednesday night he started sending out texts to people claiming he was Jesus and was part of the second coming.
Nelson said he was glad that Ellison is safe and is getting the help he needs.
Before joining the Shock, Ellison, a standout player at Redondo Union High School in the Los Angeles area, played football in college for Pete Carroll at USC and was drafted in the sixth round by the San Diego Chargers in 2009. He played in nine games with the Chargers before he was released by the team.
In 2010 he was reunited with coach Pete Carroll when he was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks, but was released by the team near the start of the 2010 season.
After his interview with investigators at Deaconess Medical Center, Ellison was arrested, accused of starting the fire, and will be charged with arson in federal court.
Firefighters said his apartment unit was badly damaged, and several other units received minor smoke damage. The damage is estimated to be approximately $50,000.