A Canyon Lake man who set fires in an attempt to burn down his neighbors' property and led law enforcement officers on a 40-mile chase before he was arrested pleaded guilty Monday to attempted murder and other charges.
David Brian Harry, 46, perpetrated two attacks, roughly nine months apart, targeting the same residence in the 28000 block of Yosemite Place in Canyon Lake.
Along with the attempted murder count, Harry admitted charges of arson to an inhabited dwelling, evading arrest, committing a crime while on bail and a sentence-enhancing allegation of using an ignition device to start a fire.
The admissions were made under a plea deal with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, just as the defendant's trial was set to get underway before Superior Court Judge Samah Shouka at the Banning Justice Center.
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Shouka scheduled a sentencing hearing for Aug. 7.
Harry is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to sheriff's investigators, the defendant was at odds with the couple living immediately adjacent to him, challenging the man to fights and regularly cursing the victims, for reasons not entirely clear. They told investigators that Harry had more than once climbed onto their retaining wall to watch them and acted aggressively, even spitting on them.
On the evening of April 8, 2017, the defendant ignited a fire in his SUV and attempted to roll the vehicle toward the victims' house, but it veered toward a neighboring residence, hit a golf cart and started a fire that damaged the cart, according to investigators.
Harry was arrested and booked into jail in lieu of $1 million bail. However, his attorney got the amount reduced by half, and the defendant was able to post bond and go home weeks later.
The victims, whose identities were not released, obtained a restraining order against him, but he proceeded to violate it, culminating in a confrontation on the afternoon of Jan. 3, 2018.
According to sheriff's Sgt. Curt Harris, Harry walked into the front yard and hurled a wooden stake through the living room window of the victims' home, and immediately afterward tossed in a lit road flare.
The curtains and carpet caught fire, but the female resident, who was alone at the time, was able to douse the flames, confining the blaze to a small area, Harris said.
He said the defendant stood outside the residence, shouting "expletives and vulgar comments," at which point the woman yelled at him to leave.
Harry lit another flare and threw it against the picket fence, igniting a second fire that burned a section of the fence before the victim could extinguish the flames with a garden hose, according to Harris.
The sergeant said Harry then jumped into his pickup truck and sped away from the location, and sheriff's deputies quickly caught up to him on a road between Canyon Lake and Lake Elsinore.
The defendant soon transitioned to Interstate 15, heading northbound, where California Highway Patrol officers took over the pursuit, Harris said.
The officers partially disabled Harry's vehicle, but he managed to continue at slow speed on the freeway. The sergeant said the chase stopped in the area of Featherly Park in Yorba Linda, where the pickup gave out.
"Harry refused officers' commands to surrender, but he was eventually placed under arrest after a brief struggle resisting their attempts to detain him,'' Harris said.
The defendant was treated for superficial injuries and booked into jail. Neither the female resident nor any law enforcement officers were hurt. Harry has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.