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Storm Lake man arrested for attempting to set fire to local movie theater and Walmart

STORM LAKE, Iowa (KTIV) — A Storm Lake man has been arrested for allegedly trying to light fires in a movie theater and a local Walmart.

The Storm Lake Police Department says 21-year-old Alejandro Vargas Lopez of Storm Lake has been charged with 2 counts of Arson 1st Degree, Criminal Mischief 2nd Degree, Assault on a Peace Officer and several other charges.

Storm Lake Police say on November 30, right before 10 p.m., officers were dispatched to the Vista 3 Theater located at 712 Lake Avenue in Storm Lake, Iowa, for possible arson.

When police arrived at the scene, staff reported Vargas Lopez was in one of their theaters between movie showings and had allegedly poured fuel on the movie screen and on a seat, attempting to ignite the items.

Police say there was no one present in the theater when Vargas Lopez had poured the fuel, but patrons were present in other theaters at the time of the incident.

Police say Vargas Lopez allegedly fled from the theater before police arrived on the scene.

Initial estimates say the screen and seat sustained $5,500 worth of damage.

While investigators were processing the arson scene at the theater, police were dispatched to the Storm Lake Walmart on North Lake Avenue for a report of a person in the movie aisle attempting to start paper towel rolls on fire.

When police arrived they identified Vargas Lopez and took him into custody.

Police say while Vargas Lopez was being taken into custody he spit in a police officer’s face, at which time he was subdued and secured in a vehicle.

While investigating the Walmart incident, Storm Lake police observed that Vargas Lopez had constructed a makeshift Molotov cocktail using a bottle of alcohol and a piece of children’s clothing from the store. Vargas Lopez allegedly ignited it in the movie section aisle of the store.

In addition, he reportedly opened a roll of paper towels and placed them on shelves in the movie aisle while attempting to light them on fire with a lighter.

Police say Walmart staff intervened and extinguished the fire before officers arrived on the scene. Police say the quick response by the staff adverted what could have been a much more serious incident.

Damage to the store is estimated at $30.

When police took Vargas Lopez into custody they located about $25 worth of Walmart merchandise on his person.

During the investigation, police allege that the diesel fuel additive used at the Vista 3 Theater incident was stolen from the Ace Hardware Store in Storm Lake by Vargas Lopez earlier in the night.

Police allege that Vargas Lopez felt that movies were “ruining the world.”

He has been booked into the Buena Vista County Jail on a $56,900 cash bond.

The investigation is ongoing.

Dean Welte

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