Sunday's fire at the Kohl's Department Store on Route 29 seemed suspicious from the very beginning - a rack of clothing doesn't just burst into flames. Now Albemarle County police say they know how the fire started, who set it and have a pair of suspects under arrest.
The two 16-year-old suspects, a boy and girl from Albemarle County, are facing serious charges after police say they set a clothing rack on fire using supplies from inside the store.
Albemarle County Fire Marshal Howard Lagomarsino said, "You can see the suspects actually lighting the fire. So you see they take something off a rack, go behind another rack, bend over and as they're leaving the fire is starting."
On Monday the fire marshal's office charged the two teens with arson - a class 3 felony. And the charges don't stop there, police have charged them with shoplifting as well.
Police say surveillance video linked them to shoplifting incidents on March 20 and March 24 at Walmart in Albemarle County. It was those incidents that helped police track down the suspects in the first place.
Captain Peter Mainzer, the Albemarle County Police Jefferson District commander said, “The biggest link was the use of the video surveillance by the different merchants. Those systems provided a lot of valuable information regarding the suspects."
The fire marshal says one third of the store was damaged. Only two clothing racks caught on fire, but the bulk of the damage was caused by 4 to 5 feet high flames, heavy black smoke and the sprinkler system.
Lagomarsino said if it wasn't for the sprinkler system, they might still be cleaning up the mess today. "When our units arrived the sprinkler system had activated, kept the fire in check until the units could actually get in and make sure the fire was out," he stated.
Police say tracking down the suspects was a team effort. "It certainly is a great example of the power of the geographic-based policing program and how when we combine resources that were able resolve important community problems such as this," Mainzer stated.
The suspects are being held at the Blue Ridge Detention Center. Since they are juveniles, their identities are not being released at this time.
Albemarle County Police Department Press Release
The Albemarle County Police Department reports that an arrest was made in connection with the recent arson incident at the Kohl's Department Store on Sunday, March 23, 2014.
Officers arrested two juveniles on Monday, March 24, 2014. One juvenile was a 16 year old male and the other was a 16 year old female. Both are residents of Albemarle County. Both were charged by the Fire Marshal's Office with Arson, a class 3 felony.
Albemarle County Police have placed additional charges against the two juveniles related to several shoplifting incidents that occurred at Walmart. The incidents occurred on March 20, 2014 and March 24, 2014.
Both juveniles were held at the Blue Ridge Detention Center.
This arrest was the result of a joint partnership and investigation between the Albemarle
County Police Department and the Albemarle County Fire Marshal's Office.
Carter Johnson Public Information Officer
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