A man is facing an aggravated arson charge after allegedly setting a clothing rack on fire inside of a store as a diversion to steal items overnight Tuesday.
Whitehall police said it is one of the most extreme cases of attempted theft they have ever seen.
According to Whitehall detectives, a man was riding a motorized shopping cart inside of the Walmart, located at 3657 E. Main St., when he set a clothing rack on fire.
Kevin E. Gillman, 26, is charged in the case after detectives tracked him down.
At nearly 500 pounds, Gillman was on a motorized scooter when he allegedly planned to steal electronics and safes, according to authorities.
Detectives said the suspect set the fire by using paint from the store as an accelerant.
The diversion forced employees to pull an alarm. The suspect tried to sneak out in the chaos, but chose a locked door. Police said that forced him to ditch his items and leave in a white car.
“It blows my mind that someone would endanger the lives of hundreds of people in that store to get away with virtually a petty theft,” said Det. Sgt. Daniel Kelso, Whitehall Division of Police.
Columbus police then arrested a shoplifter in a Walmart on Georgesville Rd, 18 miles away. That man fit the description in the Whitehall case.
With the use of a police database, investigators put Gillman’s name with the description.
“He has confessed that he was in our Walmart but denies setting the fire,” said Kelso.
Gillman now faces a charge of aggravated arson in addition to petty theft.
Police said he could have injured or killed innocent people in a poor attempt to be a thief.
“You're dealing with an extremely dangerous individual here that doesn't care about the possibility of children in the store, babies in the store, mother in that store employees,” added Kelso.
10tv also learned that Gillman had a warrant for his arrest for a probation violation in another arson case. Court records show he plead guilty to arson in 2007.
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