Police Release Photo of Suspected Walmart Arsonist

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The Athens Police Department has released a photo of the person they believe was behind the arson at Walmart days before Black Friday shopping began.

Along with the Crimes of the Month newsletter, the police department released a surveillance camera video of a man in a beanie cap, grey hoodie, black winter coat and black gloves pushing a cart down an aisle of the store.

On Nov. 26, at about 2:50 a.m., members of the Athens Police Department and the Athens Fire Department responded to an active fire in an aisle of the Walmart at 929 E. State Street.

The fire was put out quickly and no injuries were reported by police the morning after the fire.

The store was closed for more than 24 hours as a result of the fire, and arson investigators from the Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office were called to investigate.

"We are investigating this as an intentionally set fire," Michael Duchesne, spokesperson for the fire marshal's office said the day after the fire.

Investigators said the fire did set off the sprinkler system in the affected section of the store — the paper towel aisle — but "definitely did not" set off sprinklers in the entire store.

Walmart supplied surveillance video to police, and the police and fire marshal's office are working together on the case, Duchesne said.

No name was given with the new photo, but the suspect is described as a white male in his early to mid-twenties, approximately 5-foot-10, 160 pounds. He was observed leaving the area of the fire just after it ignited, according to police.

Early in the investigation, Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly posted on his Facebook page that the police had a photograph of the suspect, but investigators denied it at the time. When asked about it, Kelly said he had no knowledge of the case. The post was removed from Kelly's Facebook page the same day it was posted.

Neither Lt. Jeffrey McCall of the Athens Police Department or Duchesne could be reached for comment Tuesday.

A $5,000 reward is being offered by the Blue Ribbon Arson Committee for information leading to an arrest in the case and the Athens County Crime Solvers is also offering a separate reward, according to previous Messenger reporting.

Crime Solvers Anonymous is offering a $2,000 cash reward for information that leads to the arrest and/or indictment of the person responsible. Contact 594-3331 or the Athens Police Department at 592-3315.