Homeless man charged with arson in connection to 7-Eleven fire near UT campus

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A homeless man has been arrested in connection with a September fire behind a 7-Eleven near the UT campus.

On Sept. 23, firefighters responded to a fire behind the convenience store on the corner of W. Martin Luther King Boulevard and Guadalupe Street where a large wooden structure was engulfed in flames.

It was clear to fire investigators that the area was being used as a homeless camp, according to the affidavit.

(AFD)

Investigators say the fire damaged the back wall of the building burning gutters, electrical boxes and wiring. They also were unable to find any accidental sources of the fire and determined it was intentionally set.

Near the fire, Austin police arrested 31-year-old Donald Hughes on public intoxication charges. Investigators believed he was a potential arson suspect based on witness statements.

The affidavit says Hughes had what officers believed was “black soot on his hands.” Hughes told investigators he didn’t start the fire.

A 7-Eleven employee identified Hughes to police as a suspect who had stolen a bottle of wine from the store earlier in the evening. Approximately 10 minutes later, a customer told the employee the building was on fire.

The employee told police she saw Hughes walking out from where the fire was started. He was “laughing” and sat down on the curb in front of the store, the affidavit says.

Hughes told police he bought the bottle of wine and attempted to get on the bus. He said when he missed the bus he came back to the front of the store and opened the wine. The affidavit says Hughes denied to investigators stealing the wine or setting fire to the building.

Surveillance video from the store showed Hughes stealing a bottle of wine from the store, police say. The video also shows Hughes walking next to the area of the fire. Hughes was the only person in the area as the fire grew, according to the affidavit.

Hughes is currently in custody at the Travis County Jail charged with the felony offense of Arson.

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