Suspect photos released in Walmart arson theft case - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Suspect photos released in Walmart arson theft case

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Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department
Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department
Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department
Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department
Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department Courtesy: Berrien County Sheriff's Department

It's a crime that keeps getting more bizarre the more you watch surveillance video. Investigators say a man started a fire in the Niles Walmart to divert attention from the iPads he was stealing.

It was Saturday around 12:30am, a man is seen walking into the Walmart in Niles, wearing a black hat, black trench coat, and black pants. He waits for an employee to leave the electronics counter,  then makes his way to scope out where the iPads are hidden. Fast forward to Sunday around 5:00am. Detective Lieutenant Greg Sanders believes the same man parked a black sedan in the exact same spot the night before, but the second time around, he walks into the store with a ski mask on and a duffle bag underneath his jacket. A short time later, he lights a pile of children's clothes on fire with flammable liquid. After the fire ignites, the suspect changes clothes, then steals those iPads he had his eye on.

Detective Lieutenant Sanders in a press conference Monday said, "It did activate the fire alarm and sprinkler system into the store. So this is a substantial loss for Walmart. We're hoping someone in the public recognizes this individual." The Niles Walmart store is closed until Tuesday, and the damage is estimated at over $1 million.
    
Customers still can't believe it.
Michael Armstrong says he read about it Monday morning, and comments, "What a way to break in and steal something!" The Niles Walmart parking was completely roped off Monday, and guarded by employees all afternoon. Employees were the only ones allowed inside to help with the cleanup. Detectives say since the suspect knew exactly where the iPads were stored, it's possible the thief was a former employee. Detective Lieutenant says, "It's certainly a possibility."

Niles resident Cynthia Havener is outraged, especially knowing she was headed to the electronics department the morning of the fire. She says, "I think it's terrible! Couldn't get my parts. I wanted to get my TV going... couldn't do it!"

Michael Armstrong of Niles says, "You look at a guy that sets up a diversion like that to rob a store.... DUMB!" Police hope by releasing the surveillance tapes, someone will turn this guy in before he tries the same thing somewhere else.     

Here's how you can help: If someone offers to sell you an iPad from an unnamed source call the Berrien County Sheriffs department. To get a better look at the suspect, watch the raw video.

If you have any information you are asked to contact the Berrien County Sheriffs Department at:
(269)983-7141 ext 7275 or email gsanders@berriencounty.org

You can also call Crime Stoppers at:
(574) 288-STOP or  1-800-342-STOP

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