American University Professor David Pitts Arrested, Accused of Setting Fires

An American University professor and department chair accused of lighting several items on fire in Northwest Washington had more than 5,000 prescription pills in his home, according to police.

According to an affidavit obtained by News4, officers from Montgomery County were observing David Pitts, the chair of AU's Department of Public Administration and Policy, around 1 a.m. Thursday morning in connection with a previously reported burglary in their jurisdiction.

The officers saw Pitts light a chair on fire close to a parking attendant's stand at Foxhall Square in the 3300 block of New Mexico Avenue NW, documents say.

The affidavit says Pitts then walked around to a nearby Starbucks, where he lit a newspaper on fire, returning within "seconds" to light that same paper on fire again. Moments later, documents say Pitts walked up to Embassy Park Drive, lit something else on fire in a wooded area, then reappeared, and attempted to break into the Foxhall Square offices.

Montgomery County police then alerted D.C. police, a short chase ensued and Pitts was arrested on arson charges.

A white bag was found inside the offices Pitts attempted to break into, inside of which police found newspapers and a black, oily substance. Documents say Pitts had two lighters and a box of matches with him when he was taken into custody.

When he was arrested, Pitts denied trying to break into the building and setting the chair on fire. He later admitted entering the building, but "blamed [it] on a disoriented state and a need to obtain an envelope in his name containing a prescription from the office of his psychiatrist who has an office on the third floor."


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Officers later searched Pitts' home, and found 5,431 prescription pills including Cialis, Ambien, Lunestra and Hydrocodone.

Pitts holds a doctorate degree from the University of Georgia. The scene of Thursday night's incidents is just a short walk from the main AU campus.

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