By Amaris Castillo

A Dracut man was released Monday on $10,000 cash bail after his arraignment on charges that he allegedly set fire to his former place of employment.

Andrews L. Mello, 27, admitted to breaking windows at Dakota Systems, 1187 Broadway Road, Dracut, lighting a book of matches and throwing it inside the building, according to a police report. Mello told police he was laid off by Dakota Systems three weeks before and was upset with the way he was laid off.

On Saturday, June 9, about 6:05 a.m., an officer was dispatched to Dakota Systems for a report of smoke coming out of the building. According to police, an employee told firefighters he arrived to work his regular Saturday morning shift and when he opened the side door, he saw smoke.

The police officer drove around to the back side of the building and noticed two broken windows, according to a report. The small fire was doused. Investigators found damage to a welding machine next to a window, a shelving unit containing numerous items, a piece of plywood leaning against a metal partition and a blue plastic-like curtain material.

Video footage, captured about 4:40 a.m., showed a light-colored vehicle traveling eastbound on Broadway Road turn in to the Dakota Systems property a minute later, according to a police report. The vehicle then pulls behind the building and out of view of the cameras and, at 5 a.m., reappears at the front of the building facing toward Advanced Auto Electric. The driver, described by police as a heavyset man, steps out of the vehicle and begins pulling up pieces of curbing in the parking lot and throwing the pieces at the front of the building. The male then gets back into his vehicle and leaves the property at 5:01.

Upon seeing the footage, the company owner reportedly said “That’s Andrews!” According to a report, the owner said the vehicle looked like the one Mello drives and the way the man in the footage walked resembled Mello’s gait.

About 1:45 p.m., officials arrived at Mello’s residence to talk to him. He invited them inside and was asked of his whereabouts from 8 p.m., the day before to that morning. According to the police report. Mello said he had been out with a friend named Jarred and arrived home about 5 a.m. Police said Mello was unable to provide them with Jarred’s last name, address or phone number. Later, during an interview at Dracut police headquarters, Mello admitted to breaking in to and entering the property and throwing a lit book of matches inside through windows he broke.

Mello pleaded not guilty. In addition to the charge of burning a building, he was also charged with breaking and entering and wanton destruction of property. As part of an order of conditional release, Mello was ordered to stay away from the owner of Dakota Systems and employees; not possess a firearm, destructive device or other dangerous weapon, including matches; and refrain from excessive alcohol or any use of a narcotic drug or other controlled substance without a prescription from a licensed medical practitioner.

Mello has a probable-cause hearing scheduled for July 19, according to court records.