Suspect arrested in arson at home of Adams County deputy

Sheriff says the fire was in retaliation over the deputy's arrest of individuals close to the suspect on drug-related charges

Adams County Sheriff
An Adams County Sheriff's Dept vehicle is pictured.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

HETTINGER, N.D. — An Adams County man was arrested Monday, March 13, in an arson case that targeted the Hettinger home of an Adams County sheriff’s deputy. Authorities say the fire was an act of retaliation against the deputy over drug-related arrests.

The incident, which occurred late Friday night, March 3, targeted the property owned by Chief Deputy Jeff Gooss, who was not home at the time.

Zachary Mayo, 22, was identified by the Adams County Sheriff's Office as the alleged perpetrator of a fire that was quickly put out by Sgt. Ken Finlayson, who used a fire extinguisher from his patrol vehicle. Damage to the home was minimal and reportedly isolated to the living room.

“At the time of the fire, three individuals were inside working on the house. These three individuals had been hired by a contractor that Chief Deputy Gooss contracted to work on the home,” Sheriff Jordan Fisher stated. “After conducting interviews of all individuals, as well as reviewing security camera footage from a home in the immediate area and local grocery store, it was determined that one of the workers inside the home, 22 year old Zachary Mayo intentionally set fire to the home."

The investigation found that the other construction workers were unaware of Mayo’s intentions. Court documents obtained by The Dickinson Press state that when the fire started, a child was on the second floor of the home and would have been trapped had it gotten out of control.


On Facebook, Fisher said he believes the fire was an act of retaliation against Gooss, who is also the county’s narcotics detective, over the arrest of several individuals close to Mayo on drug-related charges.

Mayo has been charged with a class B felony of arson and two counts of class C felony endangering by fire or explosion. The maximum penalty for that category of class B felony is 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. The class C felonies carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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