Homeless man arrested for vandalizing cars on dealership lot

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A homeless man is in jail, accused of attempting to blow up a group of brand new cars at a local dealership.

It happened at the Whitten Brothers dealership on Midlothian Turnpike in Chesterfield. Police say 47 year old James Burns put a lit rag into the gas tanks of two different Jeep Wranglers hoping they would catch fire. He also jumped on the hood of one of the vehicles and ripped off its windshield wipers. While the damage was extensive, it could've been worse.

There is no doubt that this incident left behind quite a bit of damage to two brand new vehicles. But judging by what the suspect was attempting and what actually ended up happening, it could've ended up a whole lot worse.

After taking a look back at what was left behind, it is hard for the staff at Whitten Brothers to understand what could've been.

"They were pretty badly damaged." said Margaret Hall, a sales associate at the dealership.

Three vehicles in the Whitten Brothers lot were damaged early Thursday morning. A yellow jeep, with a sticker price of $24,000 will need a new hood and windshield wipers, but it was only a small part of what he had hoped to do.

The suspect tried to start a fire inside the gas tank but that didn't work, instead he caught fire to the plastic on the outside, causing all kinds of damage.

Johnny Rainy is an experienced body shop expert who is part of the team repairing the vehicles. He said starting a fire inside a gas tank that could lead to an explosion is almost impossible in newer model vehicles.

"It's hard to hold a vapor because it has a vapor lock tube, running beside it so it is almost impossible to explode a new gas tank." said Rainy.

But while the incident could've been worse, the team at Whitten is still dealing with thousands of dollars in damage to the two jeeps and a loss of a sense of security, especially to a wide open exposed lot on a busy street like Midlothian Turnpike.

"We don't worry about it too much," said Hall. "There are security measures that have been taken and we have great Chesterfield County police officers that ride buy and look after us."

A department that may be taking a closer look when they drive-by after seeing what one man on a mission was able to accomplish. The accused, James Burns has been charged with 6 counts of attempted arson, three counts of felony vandalism and one count of misdemeanor vandalism. He is being held in the Chesterfield County Jail.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.