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Newschannel 3 finding new information after arson arrest

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Newschannel 3 is pushing for answers after the first vice president of the NAACP's Kalamazoo branch is arrested for attempted arson.

Lola Clark Atkinson was charged Friday with conspiracy to commit arson and attempted second-degree arson.

Police tell Newschannel 3 they were following up on a tip that someone was about to set fire to a home in the 1300 block of N. Park St. around 3 a.m. Thursday.

When they arrived, they found 56-year-old Elvis Patterson in the act. Police later arrested Atkinson, but haven't said anything about the investigation.

Newschannel 3 had done some digging on Atkinson. She owns several properties near several other fires ruled arson in Kalamazoo this year.

Police aren't saying which house they caught Patterson inside, but Lola Atkinson owns a house on that same block.

Since the news broke Friday night, Newschannel 3 has been pushing for answers, but the police chief has not commented up to this point.

Newschannel 3's Julia Fello tried catching up them both today to get their side of the story. She tried to talk to Atkinson as her garage door was shutting. She also tried to talk to Elvis Patterson at his last known address, but there was no answer.

Police say they acted on a tip, someone wanted to burn a home on the 1300 block of N. Park St. During a stakeout, at 3 a.m. Thursday, they say they caught Patterson in the act. How it led to the arrest of Atkinson remains unclear.
When Fello asked if Atkinson, "Do you want to tell your side?" she responded, "No."  

Dr. Charles C. Warfield, president of Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP, says he spoke to Atkinson, hours after she was released from jail. He says, "Her first response was, 'I'm free. I'm home,' and I think she was enjoying that."

He says she did not discuss the charges brought against her.

Newschannel 3 uncovered this list of at least 14 properties either singly owned by Lola Atkinson or co-owned by Donald and Lola Atkinson.

They own three properties, one on Ada St., one on N. Park and another on E. Patterson, where a string of suspicious fires have been reported since last November.

Newschannel 3 had also learned one of Atkinson's homes burned down in November 2011 on E. Patterson.

Atkinson had been renting it to a family who moved out two weeks prior, so it was vacant at the time. This fire was not ruled an arson or suspicious.

Warfield wants the court process go forward before making any judgments. "Something's wrong. These two don't fit," he says. "I won't move off that position no matter what others might say."

Police have not connected Atkinson or Patterson to any of the other fires.