DEARBORN HEIGHTS —A 35-year-old Dearborn Heights man was arrested and charged with arson and hate crimes against Arab American residents on Monday after being accused of setting a series of fires in the area.
The news was confirmed by Mayor Daniel Paletko on Tuesday in an interview with Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News.
Two of the fires happened in the past year at the same strip mall in Inkster according to police.
Nicholas Diedo was charged after a man was shown on surveillance video Feb. 3 intentionally starting a fire at a commercial strip mall on Inkster Road in Inkster.
He now could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
The video shows a man pouring gas outside a building near Inkster and Cherry Hill Roads, and then lighting a fire that destroyed five businesses. The man then fled through an alleyway.
Diedo has a long history of arson allegations in the area and was arrested in March 2018 under suspicion that he had been stealing license plates off of vehicles. Diedo was charged with forgery, a felony.
He was also accused of setting his next door neighbor’s BMW on fire in June and of setting fire to the same strip mall in Inkster in April.
Between April 15 and April 22, 2018, five vehicles parked at residences less than a mile from Diedo’s home were also intentionally set on fire.
In December 2016 he was accused of setting two other vehicles on fire at a strip mall on Ford Road in Dearborn Heights about a mile from his home.
A search warrant was executed for his arrest on Monday by members of the ATF, Dearborn Heights and Inkster police departments at his home in Dearborn Heights, according to the report. Federal investigators said they found evidence in his home including clothing shown in the videos, a Molotov cocktail, and other items shown in the videos.
He has been arrested and is charged with maliciously destroying a building used in interstate commerce by means of fire, or arson.
During Tuesday’s interview, Paletko said that Diedo’s actions put an entire community at risk.
“This individual has some very serious psychological difficulties,” Palteko said. “Yes and he is a very disturbed individual.”
When told by Siblani that White terrorists are often referred to as being “disturbed” by the media while Muslims are instead called terrorists, Paletko said that the definition fits in this case, assuming Diedo is in fact the perpetrator of the arson incidents.
“Well, I would call him a terrorist,” he said. “That is in all sense of the word; that is, we were all scared that he had this tendency to put things on fire so all of us in the community were at risk if you made him mad for some reason.”