Caught on Video: Suspected Arsonist-Turned-Burglar Sets Fire in Apartment Building

The man was armed with pepper spray, which he later used on a resident who busted his burglary attempt, police said.

By Samantha Tata
|  Thursday, Jan 10, 2013  |  Updated 11:50 PM PDT
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Surveillance video a man igniting a blaze in an Irvine apartment building s leasing office, apparently with the plan to ransack the units after residents were ordered to leave the burning building, according to the Irvine Police Department. Janet Kwak reports from Irvine for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2013.

Surveillance video a man igniting a blaze in an Irvine apartment building s leasing office, apparently with the plan to ransack the units after residents were ordered to leave the burning building, according to the Irvine Police Department. Janet Kwak reports from Irvine for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2013.

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Raw Video: Arsonist Sets Fire to Office Couch

This video was released by the Irvine Police Department in the hopes of capturing a man suspected of setting a blaze in an apartment building's office, apparently as a diversion to ransack evacuated apartments.
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A man was caught on camera this week igniting a blaze in an Irvine apartment building’s leasing office, apparently with the plan to ransack the units after residents were ordered to leave the burning building, according to the Irvine Police Department.

Surveillance video (embedded below) released Thursday shows a man trying to ignite a couch at the AXIS 2300 Luxury Apartments, but the blaze burned out on its own. About 45 minutes later, he returns to the office and successfully sets the fire. The incident happened at about 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 9.

The man is accused of using the fire as a diversion to burglarize evacuated apartment units, which led to a bizarre confrontation with a resident who happened upon his burglary attempt, Lt. Julia Engen said in a press release.

When he was busted by a resident returning to his apartment to get his keys, the arsonist-turned-intruder pepper sprayed the resident and ran, Engen said.

The alleged arsonist (pictured at right) is described as having a dark complexion, a heavy build and curly hair. He is 25 to 35 years old, between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall and was wearing a black leather jacket, light blue jeans and tan shoes at the time of the incidents. He was also carrying a black backpack.

A second man (pictured below suspect's photo) was spotted in the office and police have identified him as a person of interest in the case. That man is described as between 40 and 50 years old with a dark complexion and a white goatee. He was seen on surveillance video wearing a black beanie, black jacket, blue jeans and carrying an orange and black backpack.

No one was injured in the fire, which police said was "quickly extinguished," and the leasing office alone sustained damaged.

Irvine police are working to determine if the man seen in the video is also responsible for a dumpster fire set hours before the office fire was ignited, Engen said.

Anyone with information about the incident or either men pictured in the photos is asked to call 714-573-6712 or email bmiller@cityofirvine.org.

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