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Local News

Transient Charged with Arson, Assault in Cuyama Incident

Stephen Howland, 62, allegedly struck homeowner who was trying to douse backyard fire

Stephen Howland

A transient is facing felony charges after allegedly starting a fire in a Cuyama backyard, and then assaulting one of the residents, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

Stephen Howland, 62, was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of arson and assault with a deadly weapon, and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail, said sheriff's spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

Bail was set at $100,000.

Howland recently had been given permission to stay in a backyard on the 4600 block of Morales Street, Hoover said.

"One of the homeowners was sleeping when she heard banging outside, and found Howland breaking off wood from the fence to fuel a fire he had started in the backyard," Hoover said. "The flames were four feet high and dangerously close to the residence."

Howland had armed himself with a pellet gun and a wooden board, and when the homeowner tried to put out the fire with a garden hose, he hit her in the head with one of the objects, Hoover said.

The woman called out to family members to call 911, and Howland ran into a nearby field, Hoover said.

Deputies found Howland in the field carrying a crowbar and a 17-inch knife, Hoover said, adding that he refused repeated commands to drop the weapons.

"Deputies were able to eventually take Howland into custody by using a bean bag round," Hoover said. "During the exchange, Howland threw a knife in the direction of the deputy."

Deputies later discovered Howland was in possession of two additional knives and wire cutters, Hoover said, and he told deputies he thought people were chasing him.

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