Crime

Robber bound cashier, customer with duct tape — and lit one on fire, Texas cops say

Police in Palestine, Texas say they’ve arrested the man who bound two women with duct tape, poured lighter fluid on them and burned one of them inside a convenience store during a Thursday morning robbery.

Robert Thompson, 40, has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated robbery, according to a Palestine Police Department news release. Police believe he held up the cashier of the Pit Stop corner store and one customer at gunpoint, around 10 a.m. Thursday, Chief Andy Harvey said during a news conference.

“If you can believe that,” Harvey said. “It’s hard to describe watching it on video.”

The owner of the store, Muhammad Khan, released the surveillance video to KETK. It shows a man in a white coat with a fuzzy hood bind the cashier, then a customer.

Then he empties the cash register, sprays both women with lighter fluid, tries to flick a lighter a couple times to ignite a fire, and the video cuts off, as does the one Khan released to KLTV. Harvey said at the news conference that Thompson then lit the customer on fire.

“She did suffer some burns around her head and her hair was burned,” Harvey continued. “She was able to put out the flames before they became life-threatening.”

The woman was taken first to Palestine Regional Medical Center before being transferred to Parkland Medical Center in Dallas, the release states.

“Her hair is burned off in the front,” Sandy Witt, the woman’s aunt, told the Palestine Herald. “It looks like the hair actually melted in the back. Her hands are black, as if they were covered in soot. The doctors are keeping an eye (on her) to make sure she didn’t inhale any of the flames.”

The suspect got away with between $700 and $800, Pit Stop owner Muhammad Khan said, according to KLTV. Police say he hopped into a Chevrolet Impala and drove away.

The woman driving the Impala was questioned by police Thursday, the Herald reported. Police have not announced any other arrests in connection to the robbery.

He was arrested at about 5 p.m., according to the news release, at another convenience store in town, JJ’s Fast Stop, just four miles away. Palestine is a town of about 18,000 residents that sits about 100 miles southeast of Dallas.

Thompson is being held in Anderson County Jail on $4 million bond, according to jail records.

Matt is an award-winning real time reporter and a University of Texas at Austin graduate who’s been based at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 2011. His regional focus is Texas, and that makes sense. He’s only lived there his whole life.
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