Arson arrest for fire at DeKalb County private school

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A homeless man has been arrested in connection with an arson at the private school owned by the St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church in Brookhaven.

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Michael Hornbuckle was arrested on one count of arson in the 1st degree. A spokesperson for DeKalb County Fire and Rescue said a video showing a man entering and leaving the school around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday was the key to identifying the suspect. Fire investigators said someone spotted a man who fit the description in the Buckhead area and called authorities.

Fire investigators said they still have a lot of questions surrounding the arson.

"How they got in? Where they got in? How was the fire started and why this fire started? Those are just some of the questions we have and while the footage shows quite a bit, we need to talk to this man to understand exactly what happened," said DeKalb Fire Rescue Captain Eric Jackson.

After the flames were contained, firefighters rescued dozens of insects and animals kept at the early learning school off Ashford Dunwoody. Staff members took them away for further evaluation.

"We are very grateful to all of the firefighters who got here so quickly and kept our creatures as safe as they could be," said school spokeswoman Kristi Gaffney. "We just hope someone recognizes the man and comes forward because it's just sad to know someone could do this to a church school."


Concerned parents and students are just grateful the damage was not worse and hope investigators get the answers they need to solve what appears to be a case of arson.


"I just couldn't imagine who would do something like this. This to such a sweet neighborhood school. This could happen again anywhere, so I hope someone who recognizes him will turn him in," said Chris Howell, whose son attends the school on Ashford Dunwoody Road.

Since the fire started on church property, the ATF is helping DeKalb County firefighters investigate.

School officials are not sure when they will be able to reoccupy the building, but insist their planned summer camp will go forward as scheduled in a different building on Monday.

"I was really upset that they set our school on fire. But I'm glad the animals are okay and I hope they can get everything back together before school gets back in," said St. Martin's third grader Quill Howell.

It was not immediately clear if the person who tipped off authorities to Hornbuckle will receive the $10,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest.

Hornbuckle’s next court appearance date and time were not immediately available.