Abel Garcia is several decades too old to be eligible for the services offered by Jonathan's Place, a Garland-based nonprofit dedicated to helping abused and neglected children. But the 51-year-old isn't one to let age stand in the way of his goals, which in this case was free clothing.
Police say Garcia was rummaging through one of the Jonathan's Place clothing-donation cottages at the Casa View Villas shopping center at Gus Thomasson and Ferguson roads just before midnight on Monday looking to expand his wardrobe. He probably would have slipped away unnoticed, too, had he not decided to use a rolled-up wad of paper as a torch.
To his credit, Garcia tried to put out the flames that quickly engulfed the combustible mound of cotton and polyester after the burning paper slipped from his hand as he reached for a garment. Police found him as he ran across Ferguson Road, fire extinguisher in hand, having received an erroneous report that he was trying to bludgeon someone with the metal canister.
Not true, Garcia explained. "Officer, I was just looking for clothing to wear and I dropped a paper in the box across the street, and it is on fire," he said, according to a police report.
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Sure enough, smoke and flames were by then pouring from the roof of the tiny cottage. Officers were able to contain the blaze using fire extinguishers until firefighters arrived and quickly doused the flames. Garcia, meanwhile, was arrested on a felony vandalism charge and taken to Lew Sterrett, where he remains.