HIALEAH, FLA. (WSVN) - Police have arrested a man accused of setting a fire at a Family Dollar store located across from a fire station in Hialeah.
Cellphone video captured dark smoke billowing from the store, located at 90 E 5th St., right across the street from Hialeah Fire Station 1, late Sunday night.
Investigators said a customer, later identified as 34-year-old Humberto Perez, set the blaze at around closing time while people were still inside the store.
Among those calling for help was witness Juan Navarro, who works nearby.
“The fire went like that,” he said, as he snapped his fingers.
Images showed flames shooting through the roof of the store.
“I saw white smoke. By the time I got finished calling 911, it was black smoke coming out. It was billowing and stuff,” he said.
Investigators said the fire spread quickly and caused significant damage to the store. Everyone inside was able to make it out safely.
Navarro said he saw two female employees running out of the store, and they were pointing at Perez.
“Then the girls are saying, ‘He set the fire, he set the fire. He was the one in there,'” he said.
At around the same time, a call went out from a Hialeah dispatcher.
“We’ve got a subject for a possible arson, white male, blue NFL jersey with a number 3 on it, blue mask, black hat with an orange emblem,” said the dispatcher. “He was last seen on a white and blue bicycle cruiser.”
Police later arrested Perez at a nearby hotel. According to the arrest report, they also confiscated a black torch-style lighter.
Monday, investigators visited the scene to sift through what was left.
At his bond hearing, Perez insisted he was innocent.
“Your Honor, I can explain,” he said.
“You could have killed the people in there, and now they don’t have a job,” said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mindy S. Glazer.
Perez’s bond was set at $25,000.
“The court is finding probable cause for first-degree arson,” said Glazer. “Good luck to you, sir.”
Monday night, 7News cameras captured the front of Family Dollar location boarded up. Hialeah Police officers were seen guarding the store.
Perez has a police record. Investigators have not yet specified a motive in the case.
It remains unclear when the store will reopen.
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