Judge releases 4-time felon accused of setting fires and assaulting people on the lakefront because she was impressed that he once served in the military

When Chicago police and the fire department responded to a series of trash can fires in River North and along the Magnificent Mile early on April 24, they very quickly knew who they were looking for. Many of the fire-settings were captured on video and officers began looking for a balding White male with a ponytail and a wallet chain hanging from his waist.

They found him around noon that day after he allegedly caused a disturbance inside the Art Institute.

“That’s our fire starter,” a police supervisor said on the local radio frequency.

Clinton Anders, 43, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for a mental health evaluation. Then, he was released back to the streets without being charged with any wrongdoing.

Clinton Anders | CPD

Perhaps coincidentally, another string of trash can fires popped up in the West Loop early on April 26.

Last Thursday, witnesses called 911 to report that a man was pulling down his pants and grabbing people on the lakefront near Navy Pier. They arrested Clinton Anders again. Prosecutors said he was still wearing the clothes that the arsonist wore on April 24, including a long wallet chain.

This time, authorities charged him with criminal damage to government property — the trash cans are owned by the city — and indecent exposure. Prosecutors said he has four felony convictions since 2015 for aggravated DUI, aggravated battery, burglary, and retail theft. He also has six misdemeanor convictions.

Assistant Public Defender Kimberly Mills said Anders is homeless, has three kids, and served four years in the Marines.

Judge Maryam Ahmad released him on his own recognizance without electronic monitoring.

“The court was compelled by your military service,” Ahmad explained.

He is due back in court Friday.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com