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Homeless man arrested for setting fires at bus stop

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Eric Robert Channing, 32, was arrested last night and charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly setting multiple fires at the bus stop at 1412 W. University Avenue.

A Gainesville Police Department Officer reportedly saw Channing starting a fire with flames reaching the height of six feet, directly in front of the bus stop. Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR) arrived to put out the fire, but a few minutes later, Channing allegedly started another fire in the same location, disturbing people who were waiting at the bus stop.

A GFR official told the officer that the agency had responded twice in the past week to calls for fires that were started by Channing.

Post Miranda, Channing reportedly said he wanted to start the fire because it was cool. He reportedly admitted that he had been told by officers that he should not start another fire, but he chose to start the fire because he wanted to.

In August of 2021, Channing was arrested for allegedly burning another man while sleeping, and he was arrested in January for allegedly trying to rob a couple in the same area where the fires were set. A sworn complaint was filed in August, with the victims stating that he had demanded that they give him a free beverage from a restaurant in the 1400 block of W. University Avenue and said he would beat them up when they left work if they did not give him the drink. All of the charges in the above cases were dropped.

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He has been adjudicated guilty in three misdemeanor cases this year, two for trespassing and one for petit theft and trespass without warning; he has been fined $276, $276, and $376 in the three cases but has not paid any of the fines

Channing has two felony convictions, with the most recent in 2022; bail information is unavailable on holidays.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

  • He’s a good for nothing bum junky thief that’s here in GNV…send him back to his hometown for the Holidays.

    • I’ve talked to him…he has a father in South Florida he can stay with…
      Doesn’t want to work…just wants to be a vagrant and do drugs…Grace Mkt is out of control with the Molly. Grace needs to be shut down.

      • The locals call it Molly but it’s bath salts/MDPV instead of ecstasy/MDMA. The effects are like a combination of meth and cocaine, and it is highly addictive. He should go somewhere else and do drugs. Crazy people (schizophrenics specifically) are attracted to places with lots of sensory info like sights and sounds and people; that’s probably why he gravitates toward that corner. It’s all the more reason he should be at an inpatient treatment facility somewhere until he is medicated and stabilized. Too bad there are no longer “men in white coats” to whisk him away to a treatment center. He’ll probably set himself on fire or accidentally jump in front of a bus or something.

  • Grace Market place has been a failure. But if we shut it down, all of it’s residents move back downtown.

    • You send them back to their friends, family, & church. This guy has a father in Sarasota. Grace is just a thieves/drug haven. The courts need to send them back to
      The jurisdiction they came from and not making it our problems…
      They’re coming to Florida from all over now. Jail is a good place for them to be rehabilitated. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the crime.

      • Other counties can’t be sending their released inmates here either!
        The city & county need to stop that.

    • Get rid of it and stop all the benefits. Keeping it and hoping it will get better sounds unwise since it seems to be growing like a big tumor in the city. We could have a lot more cops downtown if they weren’t at Grace Marketplace all the time. But I think most of the drug addict vagrants would move on once the benefits were shut off and the police started giving them the cold shoulder instead of the royal treatment like now.

  • So what? The city is a dumpster fire anyway thanks to leadership.
    Give him the key to the city

  • How come he was not charged with Arson? And what is this crap of the police telling him not to light anymore fires? If it was scaring the others at the Bus Stop, why didn’t they do something about it?

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