An Atlanta man is accused of intentionally setting a fire inside a Target store in Brookhaven on Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
Fonzail Lorenzo Woods Jr., 29, was booked into the DeKalb County Jail on one felony count of first-degree arson and misdemeanor counts of obstruction and possession of drug-related objects, Brookhaven police said.
The incident began just before 1:20 p.m. when someone at the department store called 911 to report that a fire had been set in a dressing room, police spokesman Sgt. Jacob Kissel said. Using a technology called Live911 that connects emergency callers directly to police units in the field, officers were able to respond to the North Druid Hills location within three minutes, Kissel said.
At the scene, officers quickly took the suspect into custody, according to Kissel. DeKalb firefighters were also called, but the blaze had been extinguished by the time they arrived, a spokesman said.
Target was closed for several hours in the aftermath of the fire and arrest.
Jail records show that Woods was previously arrested twice in DeKalb. The first time was by Atlanta police on shoplifting charges in 2017, when he spent about a week in jail. Three years later, he was arrested by Brookhaven police on multiple counts: theft of services, obstruction and disorderly conduct. Woods spent close to a month in jail following that arrest.
This is the third fire suspected of being intentionally set in a metro Atlanta Target store this year, but police did not respond to questions about whether Thursday’s fire was related to the previous incidents.
The first took place Jan. 24 at the Lindbergh neighborhood store. Investigators found that a suspect had set fire in the bedding section on the first floor with the intention of shoplifting during the ensuing evacuation. Three employees were evaluated for smoke inhalation, but no one was injured. Atlanta firefighters took about a half-hour to extinguish the blaze.
In mid-March, a less serious fire was set at the Buckhead Target about three miles away. Employees were able to put out the fire and evacuate the building before police arrived. There were no injuries, and officials described the damage as “extremely minimal.”
Two metro Atlanta Walmart stores fell prey to similar incidents in recent months as well. The location on Howell Mill Road suffered a serious fire in December that resulted in its permanent closure. In the same month, a fire was set at the Vine City Walmart. That location has been closed since the fire, but the company announced in January it plans to reopen as a smaller Walmart Neighborhood Market, according to an Axios report.
Officials believe the fires at the two Walmart stores and the Lindbergh Target are connected. In January, Atlanta Fire Rescue shared photos of two persons of interest and offered a reward of $10,000 for information leading to an arrest.
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Credit: Clayton County Police Department