News

Police Investigating Incendiary Suicide, Attempted Murder

San Marino Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding a man who intentionally rammed his truck into another vehicle and then set himself on fire, resulting in his death.

At about 8:39 a.m., this past Monday, police responded to the 1600 block of Shenandoah Road for reports of a vehicle on fire, according to a statement released by the SMPD.

Upon their arrival, officers encountered a small black Toyota pick-up truck fully engulfed in flames, according to the statement.

Witnesses also told police they believed there was a person inside the vehicle. Police attempted to put out the flames with their fire extinguishers to no avail. San Marino firefighters arrived and extinguished the flames in about 90 seconds, according to San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda.

At that time, police confirmed a man was deceased inside the truck.

Police now believe the man in the truck, who they declined to identify, was an ex-employee of the woman inside the car he allegedly intentionally rammed.

“A resident in the 1600 block of Shenandoah Avenue was driving out of her driveway when a suspect driving a small pick-up drove at a high-rate of speed, intentionally, we believe, colliding with her vehicle,” John N. Incontro, San Marino police chief, said the morning of the incendiary incident. Incontro said police is handling this probe as an attempted murder investigation. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office is handling the identification process.

“This [identification] may take longer than usual,” Ed Winter, L.A. County Coroner assistant chief, said Wednesday morning during a telephone interview. “The body was badly burned. We’ve been reaching out to people. We haven’t been able to notify the next of kin. This probably will take quite a while to positively identify him.”

Meanwhile, the victim told police the man intentionally rammed the driver side as she was leaving her house. The victim “safely drove herself” to SMPD headquarters where she told investigators she recognized the driver as a person that had previously worked for them. Incontro also said the victim was doing fine.

Witnesses said after the victim left the scene, they saw the man pour what police now believe was gasoline over himself and the vehicle. The man then ignited himself inside the vehicle.

Fire officials said they were unsure what the man used to ignite himself and the vehicle.

“We found matches, a lighter, inside the vehicle,” said Rueda. “Even though this is highly unusual for a bedroom community like ours, this can happen anywhere.”

Law enforcement had cordoned off Shenandoah Ave and Monterey Road from all foot and vehicle traffic during the investigation. Police reopened the area to residents and traffic around noon.

The individual in the small pick-up truck had two gasoline cans in the back along with an axe, according to Charles Rasmussen, who’s tree care firm was working in the area.

“We asked him to move his truck and he did, and that’s when we saw the two gas cans in the back of the truck,” Rasmussen said.

Moreover, when police arrived at the scene two “suspicious” packages were discovered that resulted in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department bomb squad responding to the scene. Bomb squad investigators quickly surmised the packages were harmless, according to Incontro.

“We were just being extra cautious because of the incident,” Incontro said.

A 20-year resident was returning from her weekly tennis game only to be turned away at the scene by law enforcement.

“I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Lainnie Capouya, who lives within the cordoned off area, said the morning of the incident. “I’m glad all these wonderful [first-responders] are here. I’m less frightened with their presence.”

This is an on-going investigation and San Marino Police detectives are working with San Marino Arson investigators and the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office. If you have any information regarding this incident, contact Det. Qureshi at (626) 300-0726.

Steve Whitmore is the assistant editor for the San Marino Tribune and the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

Write A Comment