Police say a 35-year-old Santa Ana man intentionally set fire to a tent with two people inside after making threats against them.
James Anthony Lawlor was taken into custody on suspicion of attempted murder on Thursday after the incident occurred last Friday, Jan. 19, the Santa Ana Police Department said in a statement.
The tent’s occupants were homeless, the Orange County Register confirmed with Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
“Detectives are looking into the possibility he was frustrated with homeless people sleeping in his neighborhood,” Bertagna told the newspaper. “While you can understand the frustration, the answer is not acts of violence like this.”
Officers responded to the tent fire in the 1300 block of West Tolliver Street around 8:20 a.m. The victims, a man and a woman, reported that when the man first approached he told them that if they weren’t gone within 15 minutes he would return with his Glock handgun.
When the male victim stuck his head outside the tent to speak with the aggressor, he was promptly kicked in the head, police said.
After that, the suspect drove away in a newer black truck with a black license plate, heading west down Tolliver Street, officers said.
But about five minutes later, he returned with a red gas container, according to police. Lawlor is accused of using it to pour gas on the tent — with the couple still inside — and setting it ablaze.
Lawlor then allegedly fled the scene in the same black truck, driving south on Bristol Street.
The male victim was injured by the blows to his head, and he was burned as he was leaving the tent. The female victim was unharmed, police said.
Lawlor was identified as a suspect after an arson investigator located a possible suspect vehicle not far from where the crime occurred, officer said.
He was arrested Thursday around 7:30 a.m. on suspicion of attempted murder, arson of an inhabited structure, property arson, possessing material for arson, threatening with intent to terrorize and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.
He was scheduled to appear in court on Friday and being held on $500,000 bail, inmate records show.