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RACINE – A man was charged Tuesday in Racine County Circuit Court with trying to light a makeshift tent – with a person under it – on fire.

Clarence A. Ellis, 63, of Racine, was charged by the Racine County District Attorney’s Office with a felony count of second-degree recklessly endangering safety. It carries a fine of $25,000 and 10 years in prison. Ellis was also charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct, which carry a total fine of $11,000 and a year in county jail.

According to the criminal complaint:

A Racine police officer responded to 6th Street on Tuesday at about 2:16 a.m., where she was advised that the defendant had left the area on foot after attempting to set a tarp on fire.

The victim stated he was lying under his tarp when he heard someone approach and then saw what appeared to be fire coming from the center. The victim said he immediately put out the fire that was burning a hole in the middle of the tarp. The victim also stated he found a small wad of toilet paper in the center of the tarp that appeared to be blackened and burned.
Police located Ellis, and during a search found a lighter in his pocket, along with a large wad of rolled up toilet paper.

Ellis, who is in police custody, made his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon.


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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.