The 37-year-old head of American University’s department of public administration and policy was arrested for allegedly trying to light fires inside a mall near his home while in a “disoriented” state, WJLA-TV reported.
David Pitts was charged with burglary and destruction of property and held without bond until his next court appearance on Monday. He allegedly had a newspapers, gloves, two lighters, matches, and a “black liquid substance” with him when he was arrested early Thursday morning at the Foxhall Square mall, located two blocks away from the university.
Pitts, who has worked for American since 2005, lives in an apartment complex on top of the mall. He is accused of setting a chair and a newspaper on fire, then setting another fire in a nearby wooded area before breaking into the shopping center.
Police were already looking for Pitts in connection with the theft of several prescription medications from a pharmacy last month. The Washington Post reported that authorities found 5,431 pills inside his apartment, including oxycodone, sedatives and 2,310 Cialis erectile dysfunction pills.
An affadavit for his arrest stated that Pitts told police that he was in a “disoriented state” when he set the fires and felt he needed “to obtain an envelope in his name containing a prescription.”
Last month, Pitts made light of a series of fires during the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting at a local hotel, posting, “How long does it take to put out a fire for which there is no smoke?” and “Marriott is on fire. Nothing like seeing all of the political scientists in their nighties at 1 am.” Authorities believe those fires were intentionally set, but have not charged Pitts in connection with them.
The university said in a statement that Alison Jacknowitz will take over Pitts’ duties as department chair, while other faculty members will be asked to fill in for his courses.
Watch WJLA’s report on Pitts’ arrest, as aired on Friday, below.
[Image via American University]