A man was arrested on a busy Edmonton street for nightlife Friday night after more than a dozen vehicles were lit on fire in front of witnesses at area bars.
“One of my servers came running in the door saying she wanted to call the police,” said CJ Rowein, manager of the Next Act Pub. “I stuck my head out of the door and saw a guy sprinkling gas on cars down the street and lighting the tires on fire.”
Patrons sitting on the patio at his establishment watched a man walk down the popular avenue with a jerrycan, lighting tires on fire.
“I ran back inside, grabbed a fire extinguisher and just came out to put the fires out,” Rowein said. He managed to extinguish the flames from about five vehicles along with a line of flames along the sidewalk.
Police confirmed 13 vehicles were set on fire along 104 Street and 82nd Avenue but no injuries were reported.
Malice Sutton, 22, now faces several charges, including 11 charges of arson to property of others and assault with a weapon.
Rowein said he was one of several staff from various restaurants that quickly jumped into action grabbing extinguishers to douse the flames.
“It was great to see everybody rally and put the fires out,” he said.
Witnesses told Global News it appeared the arson spree began in an alley behind the Varscona Hotel.
“I overheard someone saying ‘he’s lighting another car on fire,'” said Ross Lockwood. “That’s when I spun around and started recording video of an arsonist that was carrying a jerrycan down Calgary Trail and lighting cars on fire.”
Lockwood recorded part of the incident with his phone, describing the reactions of bystanders as “incredible.”
“There are a whole bunch of people just poised to take action. As soon as it’s safe, as soon as you see him drop the jerrycan and throw down his backpack, the tone of the crowd immediately changes and everybody moves in to secure him until police arrive,” Lockwood said.
“Everyone stayed calm, everybody played a different role. In the video you can hear them say, ‘who’s called 911?’ ‘where are the police, they’re on their way,” Lockwood added.
“It was that kind of behaviour.”
Police told Global News they were called to Whyte Avenue and Calgary Trail around 8:40 p.m., after a group of people conducted a citizen’s arrest inside the Starbucks. The suspect was handed over to officers when they arrived.
“It was incredible to see how organized a group of strangers were in the face of this threat,” Lockwood added. “It was one of the most Edmonton things I’ve ever experienced.”
Witnessed said four people held the suspect down inside the coffee shop until police arrived.
It’s unclear what caused the man to go on the arson spree.
“He was yelling some stuff about homophobia and xenophobia as he was walking past the pub so there were a lot of flags for me that raised a lot of questions,” Rowein said