Firefighters said it can't get more ironic than this: an arsonist breaks into a convenience store, steals scratch-off lottery tickets, tries to cover his tracks by setting a fire, and in the process, sets himself on fire.
It happened early Thursday morning in Rome, Georgia, just off of Rockmart Highway.
Safarez Chunara surveyed his store on Friday — the first time he and his family had seen the damage. The inside is completely torched.
"We trying to work and serve the community," Chunara said. "And somebody just come and set up the fire."
Chunara said the store is a complete loss. But how it happened is not — the surveillance video was left in tact.
"He's coming through the front door, using a center punch," said Chunara.
In the man's hand appeared to be charcoal lighter fluid. Within seconds, he began to douse the store. At one point, he spotted the surveillance camera above him and sprayed it.
At that point, the lighter fluid was sitting there with the fumes accumulating, so when he got to the point of igniting it, the fumes had already built up. So that when he tries to set the store on fire, he sets himself on fire.
The fire ignites his face, and all around him, and that's were it looks like he got some flash burns. While still on fire, the suspect grabbed rolls of lottery tickets.
And while he may have burned evidence of his burglary, firefighters said he left behind far more critical evidence of himself and his method — a video diary of a possible serial burglar and arsonist at work.
"Working with the state fire marshal's office, we found that there is some connections with other surrounding areas," said Rome fire marshal Scott Silvey. "The same coming in, smashing in door, lighter fluid and stealing lottery tickets."
That's a precise method that investigators said he has down to 27 seconds — enough time to destroy this family's business.
The GBI is testing the lighter fluid container for the suspect's fingerprints. In the meantime, the fire marshal has notified local hospitals in Georgia and Tennessee to look out for a man with facial, neck, and possibly wrist burns.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Rome Fire Marshal's Office at 706-236-4501.