Niles, Mich. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department has released surveillance footage of the man believed to be responsible for the fire and theft at a Niles Walmart early Sunday morning.
It happened just before 5 a.m. at the Walmart on S. 11th Street. The store has been closed since the incident to repair and assess the damage.
Police say the suspect arrived at the store and started a fire in the clothing area as a diversion. He set fire to some baby clothes with the aid of a liquid agent later found on the scene. The suspect appears to have changed his jacket and then headed over to the electronics department. Video shows the man using an instrument, possibly a torque wrench, to smash out the glass of an electronics display case, gaining access to numerous Apple products. The suspect is then seen tacking numerous iPad’s and walking out the front entrance.
The man reportedly left in a dark colored four-door sedan. He is described as a white male, thin build, wearing brown pants and a dark colored shirt. The person was also wearing a mask.
"Luckily it wasn't during peak time at 5 o’clock in the morning,” said Lt. Greg Sanders of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Dept. “But this is certainly a brazen attack, and to do something very careless that’s endangering many people's lives."
Police also say they have reason to believe that the same man attempted to rob the same display case the night before.
Video footage shows a similar looking suspect in the same vehicle arriving at the Walmart around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday. The footage shows the man used a pry-bar to attempt to gain access to the same case containing Apple iPad’s, but abandoned the effort when he saw a Walmart employee headed his way. Nothing was taken in that incident and Walmart reported no damages.
”We wanted to get the word out to the public,” Lt. Sanders said. “And we hope that we could identify the individual. In both cases we believe it is the same person.”
Both Walmart employees – the employee who ran after the suspect after the fire and the employee who encountered the man the night before – are talking to police.
The Berrien County Sheriff’s Dept. is asking that anyone with information on the man shown in this surveillance footage to please call at (269) 983-7141. They can also report that information anonymously by contacting Crime stoppers.
A Walmart spokesman tells NewsCenter16 the store plans to open on Tuesday.
Police estimate that losses from this incident could be “considerable” when taking into account lost inventory from the fire and sprinkler damage, stolen merchandise and lost business over the last couple of days.
The suspect did not wear a mask the night of the first attempted robbery. It appears from the video that he may have a mustache.