Police arrest man who allegedly scuffled with FFs while trying to save animals in pet store blaze

The police chief said the man's actions were "noble" but "extremely dangerous" and he had to be restrained by officers and firefighters


Nick Vlahos
Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.

PRINCETON, Ill. -- A Hennepin man was arrested Saturday after he scuffled with police officers and firefighters during a blaze at a Princeton pet store, authorities stated.

The incident took place during a fire that began about 7:30 p.m. at Tanks Boek-el-Zoo, 628 S. Main St.

According to the Princeton Police Department, the heat was causing plate-glass windows on the building to crack and break. An explosion also resulted.

As public-safety officials were attempting to enact crowd controls, a man refused to abide by them and entered the building, according to the department.

Identified as 50-year-old James F. Boekeloo, the man didn't leave the building until an officer's multiple requests. As Boekeloo was exiting, he shoved the officer twice.

Officers and firefighters placed Boekeloo to the ground, where he was handcuffed after he continued to resist, according to the fire department. He was not struck or tasered. No injuries were reported.

Boekeloo was attempting to rescue animals that were inside the burning building, according to Princeton Police Chief Tom Kammerer. Boekeloo's sister Lori Boekeloo is the pet-store owner, apparently.

"While his efforts are noble, they were extremely dangerous," Kammerer stated. "At any time, he could have been injured.

"I understand this situation was emotionally charged. I understand Boekeloo's intentions ... That does not excuse his actions toward the police officers and firefighters working to save his sister's business."

The following day, a caller to the Bureau County dispatch center threatened to burn buildings in Princeton and riot because of James Boekeloo's arrest. Ultimately, a peaceful protest took place downtown.

Initially, Boekeloo was accused of obstructing justice and aggravated battery to a police officer. After he conferred with the state's attorney's office, Kammerer requested Boekeloo's charges be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors.

Boekeloo was released on bond from the Bureau County Jail and was awaiting a court appearance, according to Kammerer.

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©2020 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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