Fort Worth

Arrest made in Hulen Mall arson fire in Fort Worth

Woman captures dramatic fire at Hulen Mall

A Fort Worth woman who said she was in the Sears store Friday shared a video she shot with the Star-Telegram showing flames shooting up from the floor and a store employee using a fire extinguisher to douse them.
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A Fort Worth woman who said she was in the Sears store Friday shared a video she shot with the Star-Telegram showing flames shooting up from the floor and a store employee using a fire extinguisher to douse them.

Authorities made an arrest Friday in a suspected arson fire inside Hulen Mall at the Sears department store, and closed down the mall to make a safety sweep. It was the second time in a week that fires were set at the mall.

The suspect in custody is Craig Michael Tezeno, 46, of Fort Worth, said Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald at a news conference at Hulen Mall. Federal charges of using a device to cause a building fire are expected to be filed, said Eric Johnson, FBI special agent in charge in Dallas.

Terrorism has not been ruled out, Johnson said. Tezeno is also a suspect in fire bomb attacks at the mall on May 11, Johnson said. The devices that were used were similar to the device that was used in the most recent case, he said.

Tezeno was taken into custody without incident on the second level of the mall after officers seized a firearm that he was carrying, according to authorities. Fitzgerald credited Hulen Mall security staff with assisting law enforcement in placing the suspect at both scenes. Fitzgerald also said the information, pictures of the suspect and a suspect vehicle, that were released last week were key in bringing the case forward.

Tezeno has five other misdemeanor arrests dating to 1994 listed with the Tarrant County district clerk's office under a different but similar name. Those five arrests include assault and suspended drivers license offenses, according to court records. In his latest assault case, in May 1998, Tezeno was placed on two years probation in 1999 which was discharged in January 2001, court records show.

craig michael tezeno (1).jpg
Craig Michael Tezeno Tarrant County Sheriff's Office

The mall reopened shortly before 2 p.m. except for Sears, which police said would be closed indefinitely. A police car outfitted with a loudspeaker parked in front of the store warned would-be patrons away.

Potential Sears customers were greeted by locked gates or doors and a sign that said the store was closed due to fire.

A woman who said she was in the store at the time shared a video she shot with the Star-Telegram showing flames shooting up from the floor and a store employee using a fire extinguisher to douse them.

Firefighters reported they found an incendiary device used in the fire and the suspect was taken into custody before noon. The device was characterized as a Molotov cocktail, according to Kyle Falkner, Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman.

The fire was set inside the shoe department at Sears and was small, covering about 3 square feet, Falkner said.

Fort Worth police, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and SWAT personnel were on the scene during a safety sweep of the mall. The mall was closed while officers conducted the sweep and reopened before 2 pm.

The device was similar to two devices that were used at the mall to set fires last Friday at Sears and Dillard's, according to authorities.

Fort Worth police said the "person of interest" in the latest case matched surveillance footage of the person in the previous incident. They said they believe there's no further danger to the public.

Firefighters got a call about 2:30 p.m. last Friday that someone had ignited a substance in a bottle and thrown it on the ground in the men's departments of the two stores, Falkner said.

Employees were able to put out any fire quickly enough that little damage occurred and no one was injured, Falkner said.

Authorities conducted a sweep of the mall last Friday, too, to make sure the suspect did not leave anything behind elsewhere, Falkner said.

Here's the full video of the fire department's news briefing Friday:

An arrest has been made in an arson fire at Sears, the second such fire at a department store in a week's time

Stephen English: 817-390-7330, @sbenglish74; Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3

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