LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) – Lake Wales police arrested a man seen leaving Eagle Ridge Mall right before two marine flares were ignited on Jan. 21, causing a fire.
Investigators said DNA on items left behind with the flares that were wrapped in electrical tape led them to Patrick Joseph Collins, 32, of Auburndale.
They said Collins ignited the flares and attempted to throw them into the drop ceiling above the corridor and Kay Jewelers, which is immediately adjacent to the corridor.
PCSO deputies said when they went to Collins’ house on Leta Street, he tried to flee on his Harley Davidson but crashed into one of the deputy’s vehicles. He took off on foot and was apprehended and taken into custody following a brief struggle, police said.
Collins was taken to Winter Haven Hospital and then released.
During questioning, Collins admitted to igniting the flares at Eagle Ridge Mall. He provided no motive. He said he was trying to sleep in the corridor when people began to chase him and he ignited the flares to keep them from getting him. That was disproved by witnesses.
He said he acted alone. He told police he lost his job within the last two weeks.MORE TOP STORIES: