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Calif. man arrested for lighting homeless couple's tent on fire

The homeless couple said the man threatened them with a gun before returning with a gasoline container


By Scott Schwebke
The Orange County Register

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A 35-year-old Santa Ana man who lives several blocks away from where he is accused of setting fire to a tent occupied by a homeless couple was arrested Thursday, Jan. 26, police said.

Around 8:20 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19, a man and a woman reported to police that another man had approached their tent in a vacant lot in the 1300 block of West Tolliver Street and told them they had 15 minutes to leave or he would return with a Glock handgun, Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said in a statement.

James Anthony Lawlor was booked into jail on suspicion of several crimes, including attempted murder. (Photo/Orange County Police Dept.)
James Anthony Lawlor was booked into jail on suspicion of several crimes, including attempted murder. (Photo/Orange County Police Dept.)

“The male occupant in the tent stuck his head out to talk to the suspect and was immediately kicked twice on the head by the suspect,” Bertagna said.

The suspect then left in a truck and returned about five minutes later holding a red gasoline container, Bertagna said. He poured gasoline on the tent and set it afire before fleeing, the homeless couple told police.

The male victim sustained minor burns, in addition to injuries from being kicked in the head, Bertagna said.

“Detectives are looking into the possibility he was frustrated with homeless people sleeping in his neighborhood,” Bertagna said. “While you can understand the frustration, the answer is not acts of violence like this.”

A witness took a photo of the suspect’s truck and of the victims attempting to put out the fire. The victims also provided police with a rudimentary sketch of the suspect’s appearance that helped identify him, Bertagna said.

Orange County Fire Authority arson investigators located the suspect’s vehicle near the scene. He was identified by the victims and arrested without incident while leaving his residence several blocks from the crime scene, Bertagna said, adding that the suspect made incriminating statements during an interview with detectives.

James Anthony Lawlor was booked into jail on suspicion of several crimes, including attempted murder.

Copyright 2018 The Orange County Register

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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