Don Ryan  /  AP file
Michael Scarpitti
updated 3/16/2004 10:47:10 AM ET 2004-03-16T15:47:10

A fugitive radical environmentalist has been arrested on charges of setting fire to logging and cement trucks in 2001, the FBI announced Monday.

Michael Scarpitti was arrested Saturday while trying to shoplift some bolt cutters in Victoria, British Columbia, said Robert Jordan, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Portland. Canadian police realized he was a fugitive when his fingerprints were run through a database, Jordan said.

Scarpitti has been on the FBI’s most-wanted list since disappearing two years ago and has been connected to the Earth Liberation Front, a shadowy group that has claimed responsibility for dozens of crimes over the past several years.

The FBI lists the ELF as its No. 1 domestic terrorism priority. In recent years, dozens of attacks across the country — especially on SUV dealerships, construction sites and test plots of genetically modified crops — have been made in ELF’s name.

“It is very difficult to capture someone who lives a marginal existence. He didn’t rely on credit cards or have a driver’s license ... the sort of things that make it easy for an individual to be captured,” Jordan said.

Jordan said the FBI did not know how long Scarpitti has been in Canada, and the agency is working with Canadian authorities on Scarpitti’s extradition to Oregon.

Scarpitti, also known as Tre Arrow, is among four activists charged with setting logging trucks on fire on June 1, 2001, to protest logging on the slopes of Mount Hood.

Three other suspects were captured after one of them told a girlfriend about the crime, according to arrest papers. The girlfriend’s father is a deputy state fire marshal.

Scarpitti is also accused of taking part in an April 15, 2001 arson attack that damaged three cement trucks at Ross Island Sand & Gravel in Portland.

Scarpitti first gained notoriety in July 2000 when he scaled a U.S. Forest Service building in downtown Portland and lived on a ledge for 11 days to protest timber policies.

In October 2001, he suffered several broken bones when he fell 60 feet from a hemlock tree where he had perched to protest a logging sale in Oregon’s Tillamook County.

On June 1 of that year arsonists firebombed trucks at Schoppert Logging Co. in Estacada, a small town between Portland and Mount Hood.

Three suspects were arrested. One of them, Jacob Sherman, was sentenced to more than three years in prison in 2003 after pleading guilty.

Court documents filed by Sherman’s attorney identify Arrow as “the leader and instigator” of the arsons.

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