Madison police and firefighters had to deal with a bizarre incident Friday night in an office building along the Beltline, where a man allegedly set fire and vandalized a suite of offices before crawling out, soaking wet, to waiting police.

Dustin Palmer, 30, was taken into custody on five counts of criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct, and could face an arson charge, Madison police said.

The incident started at about 8 p.m. Friday at the office building at 2601 W. Beltline, the building on the corner of Todd Drive and the Beltline.

According to police:

Palmer's intention was to vandalize, not to steal, police said.

"Damage was reported on several floors of the high-rise building," said police spokesman Joel DeSpain. "Glass was broken, items were pulled off of walls and smeared blood was found in different locations."

Before Palmer allegedly set a fire in an office suite on the fifth floor, he went into the restaurant, scared staff and helped himself to a fountain drink.

The fire brought firefighters to the scene, called by police as they searched for the suspect.

"The crew from Ladder 6 saw dense smoke in the fifth-floor room and found that a small fire had been extinguished by the automatic fire sprinkler system," said Joel Kneifel of the MFD.

Firefighters evacuated the building and searched the part of the building near the fire to make sure nobody was hurt or trapped.

When police officers entered the damaged fifth-floor offices, Palmer was ordered to come out.

"He crawled to them alternating between yelling nonsensical things and coughing," DeSpain said. "Officers pulled him to safety and took him down several flights of stairs as the MFD mopped up the scene."


Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.