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Hopkins fire suspect undergoing competency restoration

Efforts are ongoing to restore the competency of a Mendocino County man charged with starting a fire that destroyed at least 30 homes in Calpella in September 2021.

During a brief hearing in Mendocino County Superior Court Friday, officials confirmed Devin Lamar Johnson has entered a jail-based competency treatment program.

In February, court officials concluded he was not competent to stand trial and he should be committed to the Department of State Hospitals for competency restoration treatment.

Competency restoration is a process designed to help a defendant regain the ability to consult with attorneys and understand court proceedings. According to Johnson’s commitment order, his process involves administration of antipsychotic medication as prescribed by his psychiatrist.

Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder said competency updates may be issued every 90 days. The date of the next update wasn’t immediately available Friday.

Johnson is accused of starting the Hopkins fire on Sept. 12, 2021.

He’s charged with one count of arson and faces 10 years to life in prison if convicted.

The fire consumed 257 acres on a hillside bordered by the Russian River to the west and Lake Mendocino to the east.

Flames spread up a 1,000-foot ridge and down to the western shore of Lake Mendocino before burning sections of the reservoir left dry by California’s drought.

Investigators say about 200 people evacuated in triple-digit temperatures and gusty winds. No injuries were reported, but the fire destroyed homes along Eastside Calpella Road, a north and south street that runs parallel to the Russian River.

Investigators say a photo shows Johnson watching the fire as he stood on the Moore Street Bridge.

During his preliminary hearing in November, prosecutors presented surveillance footage of someone, believed to be Johnson, coming and going from a wooded area where the fire began.

The footage concluded as light smoke, followed by flames, grew and spread rapidly.

Johnson was arrested two days later and his competency came into question even during his preliminary hearing, where he exhibited odd behavior throughout proceedings and required two Mendocino County sheriff’s deputies by his side.

At one point, he interrupted Faulder and blurted out “I’m trying to go to Disneyland.”

Johnson was ordered to stand trial but also undergo medical evaluations to determine whether he was competent to go to trial.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi

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