Accused of lighting bear spray on fire outside her neighbor’s apartment door, a Laramie woman could face up to two decades in prison if convicted.
The Albany County Attorney’s Office charged Camryn Grace Canning, 22, this month with first-degree arson, misdemeanor property destruction and interference with a police officer.
The arson charge is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $20,000 in fines, while the latter two misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and $750 in fines; and one year in jail and $1,000 in fines, respectively.
Canning’s case ascended Nov. 21 to the felony-level Albany County District Court.
Where Are The Cords?
The investigation started at about 1:37 a.m. Nov. 3 when Laramie Police Department Officer Evan Kamerer responded to the 300 block of North 7th Street in Laramie to a report of an electrical fire.
There Kamerer encountered Canning, who said she’d left her apartment around the same time the fire started, according to an evidentiary affidavit filed in the case.
That detail stood out to Kamerer, who emphasized in the affidavit that Canning had apparently left her apartment “for no other reason than to check her mail” at 1:30 in the morning.
Canning reported she saw flames on the floor outside the door of an apartment adjacent to hers, grabbed a fire extinguisher off a nearby wall and tried to put out the fire, the affidavit relates.
The person in the apartment also spoke with Kamerer, saying he or she came out and poured water on the fire, along with Canning.
Burn marks scorched the door, its paint was bubbled and flaked, and the carpet and trim around it were charred, the affidavit says.
But it didn’t look like an electrical fire to Kamerer, who noted in the affidavit there were no electrical devices or wires in the area, including under the carpet, around the door, on the walls or on the floor.
Linear burn patterns marred the area, “consistent with a line of accelerant being burned,” the affidavit says.
The on-scene fire investigator agreed the fire was “suspicious,” the document adds.
Then This Happened
Over the next few days as Kamerer investigated, “other, similar events transpired,” the officer wrote.
At about 9:51 the evening of Nov. 12, a police sergeant and an officer went to that same apartment building for civil matters. The sergeant met with Canning, who was reportedly requesting officer attendance for a civil standby.
The sergeant noticed a can of what appeared to be bear spray on a shelf in Canning’s apartment, says the affidavit.
Later That Night …
Less than four hours later at 1:13 a.m., Kamerer responded to the apartment building for a report of someone trying to start a fire outside the building owner’s apartment door.
The building owner called police from her upstairs apartment, says the affidavit. She reportedly said her throat was burning and an acrid odor streamed in from the hallway outside her apartment.
The atmosphere also was sickening to Kamerer and the other officers. Kamerer wrote they were “physically affected by a possible irritant consistent with an aerosol self-defense spray.”
A pile of burnt matches and other burnt items sat in front of the victim apartment from the Nov. 3 incident, the affidavit says.
But the fire damage this time was “greater in magnitude,” adds the document. An orange, fluorescent liquid residue shone on the door and walls.
Kamerer spotted unburnt matches in front of Canning’s apartment and in front of the “same victim apartment” from the Nov. 3 incident.
Coughed So Hard
Another officer contacted Canning at the door to her apartment. Canning answered the door wearing a towel and looking like she’d just gotten out of the shower. Her face was red and inflamed; her eyes were bloodshot as if she, too, had been sickened by a self-defense aerosol, says the affidavit.
Canning allowed a sergeant to enter her apartment, who noticed an orange fluorescent liquid on the floors of her apartment and that same strong odor – plus an empty milk jug on the kitchen counter and vomit on the living room floor.
An empty can of what appeared to be bear spray sat just inside a trash can, the affidavit says.
The document says the sergeant spoke with Canning’s boyfriend, who said he’d been sleeping in the apartment that night but woke up coughing so hard from the acrid fumes that he vomited.
The boyfriend wasn’t sure why the milk jug was empty since he’d reportedly just bought the milk, and Canning is lactose intolerant, says the affidavit.
Kamerer talked with Canning, who was by then wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt and black sweatpants — both stained with orange fluorescent liquid, the document claims.
Canning was reportedly “uncooperative” and tried to walk away twice, then provided “multiple inconsistent statements” and at least one proven lie to law enforcement.
By 9 a.m., Kamerer and Laramie police detectives executed a search warrant on the apartment. They documented a used can of bear spray in the kitchen garbage can; an orange, plastic, weatherproof match container in the kitchen drawer; and a red sweatshirt with fluorescent orange liquid residue on its front chest area and two marks on its waistband area.
Kamerer is “aware that self-defense sprays such as bear spray can cause extreme vasodilation reactions and soft tissue inflammation,” the officer wrote, adding that bear spray can also be used as a fire accelerant.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.