War Eagle Extra

Auburn Police Department arrest suspect in Toomer’s Corner fire

Jochen Wiest booking photo
Jochen Wiest booking photo

AUBURN, Ala. The Auburn Police Department announced it arrested 29-year-old Jochen Wiest on a warrant charging him with desecration of a venerable object for allegedly lighting one of the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner on fire.

Wiest was taken into custody in the area on an unrelated charge of public intoxication according to a statement issued by Captain Lorenza Dorsey.

“Further investigation resulted in Wiest being identified as the individual responsible for setting the fire and a warrant was obtained for his arrest,” the statement said.

Wiest’s bond was set at $1,000.

Desecration of a venerable object is Class A misdemeanor in Alabama. Class A misdemeanors are punishable with a jail sentence of up to one year and fine up to $6,000.

Police responded to the scene at the corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue at 12:15 am Sunday morning.

Witnesses helped identify Wiest, whom the police say has no affiliation with Auburn University.

The incident at Toomer’s Corner took place following Auburn’s 18-13 win over No. 18 LSU.

It was only the second time fans rolled the new trees since Auburn officials announced the return of the longtime tradition in August.

The original oak trees had to be replaced after being poisoned by an Alabama fan following the 2010 Iron Bowl. The university planted the new 35-foot tall oaks in February 2015 from a South Carolina nursery.

Auburn professor of horticulture Gary Keever issued a statement Sunday afternoon about the health of the tree. Keever plans on using a lift to get a closer look at the tree’s canopy this week to properly assess the damage.

“From the ground we can easily see damage to the leaves and base of the tree. It is significant,” said Keever. “I expect the foliage will continue to drop. The full extent of damage may not be known for several weeks. The best case scenario would be to see a flush of new growth next spring, but right now it’s too early to tell how the tree will respond.”

The university announced it will replace irrigation pipes used to water the tree that were melted by the intensity of the fire.

Surveillance video from early Sunday morning shows an unidentified male walking up to the tree and setting it on fire. Fans point out the person and try to prevent him from fleeing the scene.

The Auburn Fire Department reported to the scene at 12:17 a.m., according to Josh Vitale of the OA News. Battalion Chief Dow Sport told the OA News that the crew spent 30 minutes on the scene and there were no injuries.