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Capitol Fire Suspect to Go Before Iowa Judge

A man arrested in Iowa who is suspected of setting fire to a car last week at the Texas Capitol is expected to appear before a judge on Friday.

Michael Patrick Wagner

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

A man arrested in Iowa who is suspected of setting fire to a car last week at the Texas Capitol is expected to appear before a judge on Friday. 

Late Wednesday, the Texas Rangers contacted the Marion Police Department in Iowa after tracking the suspect, Michael Patrick Wagner, 38, to the Hawkeye State from a parking ticket he received at the Capitol complex.

"We found his car and they asked us to do a surveillance on him," Lt. Scott Elam of the Marion police said of the Texas Department of Public Safety's Texas Rangers. The Iowa police officers followed Wagner as he went shopping and observed him shoplifting inside a Walmart. "We kept following him," Elam said.

Wagner returned to a hotel, and by 10 p.m. Wednesday, Marion officers had obtained a search warrant for his hotel room and car. Wagner, who was last arrested in Marion in 2000 on a drunken driving charge, was charged with shoplifting.

Although he was technically released on that misdemeanor charge, the Iowa officers kept him on the arson warrant out of Texas, Elam said.

Wagner was interviewed by the Texas Rangers, who flew into Iowa late Wednesday night. After the interview with the Texas Rangers, Wagner was placed in the Linn County Jail in Iowa early Thursday morning.

Elam said Wagner will appear before a judge sometime Friday. If he waives extradition to Texas, Wagner should be back in Austin this weekend.

But if he doesn't agree to the extradition, then the process could become more complicated, Elam said. "Hopefully he says yes to the extradition," Elam said.

Records show Wagner has a criminal record in Iowa that most recently includes a criminal mischief offense in 2013. Elam did not have any details on that charge, which came out of neighboring Jones County. 

The Aug. 7 vehicle car fire on the south side of the Texas Capitol was being investigated as intentional, according to authorities. DPS had said it was working to determine whether it was connected to a report earlier in the day of suspicious activity at the Capitol.

Capitol officials have said authorities suspect the same person who set the fire was seen earlier in the day poking around House Speaker Joe Straus' office and apartment. According to an arrest affidavit, a man who was later identified as Wagner first walked into the House chamber on the morning of Aug. 7, approached the House speaker’s podium and removed a booklet with the Texas Constitution. He later fled the building after being approached by Capitol staff, leaving behind the booklet, which will be tested for fingerprints.

"DPS has an increasingly difficult job at the Capitol, and I am grateful for the agency's continued diligence," Straus said in a statement Thursday evening.

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Courts Criminal justice Department of Public Safety Joe Straus