Atwater police made an arrest Wednesday related to the fire set inside Super Target the previous night, officers said in a news release.
Police and fire crews were sent to the Target in the 1000 block of Commerce Avenue just after 9 p.m. Tuesday after someone set fire to items on the toilet paper aisle, according to police. No injuries were reported, but the store was evacuated because of a large cloud of smoke.
Target staff said they saw a man pushing a cart in the area before the fire was discovered, police said. The man was identified Wednesday as 42-year-old Jaime Rojas of Atwater, police said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Modesto Bee
Police released a surveillance photo of the man and said its circulation on social media helped authorities identify him.
With assistance from the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, Atwater police arrested Rojas in an orchard in Cressey. He is believed to also be involved in a 3:45 a.m. robbery at a jewelry store in the 1800 block of Bellevue Road on Wednesday, according to police. He was caught on surveillance there as well, police said.
Rojas is in custody at the Atwater Police Department, and Calfire arson investigators will question him, police said.
He’ll later be taken to Merced County jail on suspicion of arson of an occupied building and at least one count of commercial burglary, police said Wednesday.
The store remained closed on Wednesday as crews continue to cleanup from the fire, according to spokesperson Danielle Schumann.
“We appreciate the assistance of local authorities after our Atwater, California, store experienced a fire on the evening of Aug. 7,” she said in a statement. “Our store team is partnering with cleaning crews to dispose of damaged items and begin repairing the store. We apologize for the inconvenience, and encourage guests to visit our nearby Turlock and Merced stores. Our goal is to open as soon as we can for our team members and guests.”