SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — A man accused of setting a homeless couple’s tent on fire in Santa Ana last week after first threatening to shoot them has been arrested.
The arrest was due, in part, to a witness photograph of the suspect’s truck during the incident, as well as one of the enterprising victims’ sketch rendering of the man.
James Anthony Lawlor was booked Thursday on suspicion of attempted murder, arson, assault and terrorist threats.
Lawlor allegedly doused with gasoline and set ablaze the tent of a homeless couple encamped at the intersection of Bristol and Tolliver streets on Friday. Santa Ana Police said Lawlor lives nearby the site.
According to police, the 35-year-old had threatened the couple, saying he was going home to get his Glock handgun if they didn’t leave the dirt lot. He then allegedly kicked the homeless man in the head and returned with a gasoline container he used to set the tent on fire.
“He was upset by, as many people are, the homeless issue, but taking it out by lighting somebody on fire is not the answer,” Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana PD told CBS2 News.
A witness took a photograph of Lawlor, his pickup truck and the license plate during the incident, which helped an arson investigator locate the suspect.
Another tip was a crudely drawn, yet somehow accurate sketch of the man drawn by the victim.
“They drew — not a professional — it may look a little cartoonish, but when you put the suspect’s picture next to the drawing, looks pretty good,” said Bertagna.
The homeless man, whose name has not been released, suffered only minor burns and refused treatment at the hospital.
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