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Originally published March 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 16, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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His car torched, Lynnwood man chases and subdues arson suspect

When an arsonist set fire to Dan Morrison's car just before 5:30 a.m. Thursday at his Lynnwood home, Morrison didn't just put out the fire...

Times Snohomish County Bureau

When an arsonist set fire to Dan Morrison's car just before 5:30 a.m. Thursday at his Lynnwood home, Morrison didn't just put out the fire, return inside and call the cops.

He grabbed his baseball bat and followed a suspicious-looking man down the street, stopping the suspect just as the man crouched to set fire to nearby Maple Park Lutheran Brethren Church.

Morrison, who said the suspect attacked first, struck him with the bat several times. He then chased him down the street, and the man tried to escape by jumping over a fence.

"I hit him on the head as hard as I could," Morrison said. "Every blow was in the head, but he just would not fall over."

A passer-by had alerted Morrison, 24, that his car was on fire at his home on 176th Street Southwest, he said. Still wearing his pajamas, he picked up the bat as he went out to extinguish the flames.

He said he spotted the suspect testing doors of houses and cars on his block. He followed the man to the church at 17620 60th Ave. W., where Morrison said he interrupted him trying to spark a fire.

Morrison dealt 10 or more blows during the chase and as he tussled with the suspect, he estimated. He said he shouted repeatedly for help and saw a neighbor calling authorities on his cellphone.

Police apprehended both Morrison and the suspect, who was taken to Stevens Hospital in Edmonds.

The suspect's head wounds were stitched and he was released from the hospital, said Lynnwood police detective Sgt. Jerry Riener, lead investigator for the case. The man is being held at the Snohomish County Jail.

Morrison, who was uninjured, was released from custody.

Riener said the county prosecutor will review the case and consider whether Morrison might have used excessive force to subdue the suspect.

However, "If someone attacks you, you have the right to defend yourself," he said.

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But Riener said citizens should remember to consider their own safety before trying to apprehend suspected criminals.

"We always want people to think of their personal safety first. ... In this case, it worked out, but it could have turned different. We don't encourage people to go out and take the law into their hands," he said.

The church was the site of a major arson last year. The fire, which was started in a portable toilet outside the church, spread to the church's interior and caused about $800,000 in damage, said Gary Price, minister of church life.

Police are investigating whether Thursday's arson attempts and last year's arson are linked, Riener said.

Investigators also are looking into several other smaller arsons in the area over the last year.

Naila Moreira: 425-745-7845 or nmoreira@seattletimes.com

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