UPDATED — Police: Walmart arsonist is 14-year-old girl

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UPDATED — Here’s the news release from the Peachtree City Police Department this morning:

“On August 24th, 2022, the Peachtree City Wal-Mart suffered significant damage to the interior of the store from a fire that was intentionally set in the paper goods aisle.

“An intensive investigation ensued involving members of the Peachtree City Police Department’s Investigation Division, Peachtree City Fire / Rescue personnel, and the Wal-Mart asset protection team. Numerous citizens also reported what they observed during the time of the fire.

“Initial eyewitness information was eventually corroborated by video evidence recovered from the damaged servers inside Wal-Mart, leading to a suspect description. Through further investigative efforts by detectives, a suspect was identified.

“On the evening of August 30th, a search warrant was executed on the suspect’s residence in Peachtree City, which included an interview with the suspect who admitted to the starting the fire.

“As a result, a 14-year-old female juvenile was taken into custody and charged with Arson in the 1st Degree. The investigation revealed no evidence of a specific motive or participation in an organized activity.

“The Peachtree City Police Department would like to applaud the efforts of all city employees, Wal-Mart associates, and the citizens of the surrounding area for working together to help solve this case. Peachtree City has no information on an expected reopening date for Wal-Mart at this time.” — Peachtree City Police Department

Police also said the girl used a cigarette lighter by itself to start the multi-million-dollar blaze — no flammable liquid or any other chemical accelerant.

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EARLIER STORY — A 14-year-old Peachtree City girl has been detained and is expected to be charged with arson in the first degree, a felony, in the fire last week at the Peachtree City Walmart, according to Peachtree City police Wednesday morning.

No motive has been revealed, but the juvenile girl is the sole perpetrator, with no others involved, police said. Police have ruled out shoplifting as a motive for starting the fire.

Police with a warrant searched the girl’s home Tuesday evening and took her into custody. Since she is under the age of 17, police by law are releasing no names or other identifying information.

The girl is alleged to have started the fire in the paper goods aisle of the Walmart Superstore shortly after 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24. The store was quickly evacuated with no injuries. Four Peachtree CIty police officers were treated at the Piedmont Fayette Hospital for smoke inhalation but all were released within hours and returned to duty, according to Police Chief Janet Moon.

Although the huge store’s sprinkler system was working as designed, the fire in the highly combustible paper goods section quickly spread, finally causing portions of the roof to collapse. Firefighters from Peachtree City, Fayette County, Fayetteville, Newnan and Coweta County poured thousands of gallons of water through the holes in the roof before extinguishing the fire by 4 a.m. Thursday. Losses in damage to the store, loss of merchandise and interruption of business for the store are expected to run into the multiple millions of dollars. No timeline has been announced for the store reopening.

53 COMMENTS

  1. I’d like to bring to everyone’s attention on what the girl used to start this fire, explain to me why she had a lighter to start with at 14yrs old. You can not randomly get a lighter in the store as they are behind the register that is for cigarettes and etc. Therefore please explain to me why the parents are now not being charged in the crime along with their child??? Parents need to be held responsible not just the girl. She got the lighter somehow and the parents neglected the fact to WATCH THEIR child who is under the age of 18yrs old. I’m sorry but they need to have consequences as well!!!

    • I would pause before blaming parents for this young girl’s behavior. Lighters, or even matches, are hardly difficult to acquire. I sometimes see plastic lighters on the ground in parking lots and cart paths. Also, I suspect the parents are deeply saddened by their young ward’s misbehavior. Allowing an adolescent to shop alone at Walmart is not an unrealistic parental lapse.

      If there has been a pattern of misanthropic behavior in this young girl that her parents have ignored, perhaps some culpability is deserved. If this was her initial criminal enterprise, her parents might have been just as surprised as everyone else.

      Many impulsive 14-year-olds have upstanding parents; nevertheless, they make very poor decisions.

    • Go to the end of aisle 14 at Kroger crosstown toward the meat section and you’ll find all the lighters you care to purchase with no questions asked. I don’t think they have an age limit on anything except alcohol, tobacco, and maybe some over-the-counter meds?

    • I have purchased lighters for my outdoor grill from the very same WalMart. They are not behind any counter. They often can be found on various end caps, as well as openly displayed in the auto, sports and garden sections. Besides, I do not know of any WalMart/Kroger/Publix/Target that sells cigarettes today…maybe the local 7/11. Even Home Depot have lighters openly sold.

  2. Trail Walking : The COMMUNITY failed the 14 year old????? How UBER liberal minded of you! Nope. Not taking the fall for poor parenting by her parents. Not going to happen. Your suggestion absolutely explains what is wrong with a lot of today’s youth….placing the blame on the WHOLE rather than the ONE. So! If a child fails an exam, it’s the fault of everyone in the classroom instead of the student? If a drunk driver gets into an accident and wipes out a family, it’s the fault of everyone who drives and everyone who drinks? Your rather seemingly self-righteous and arrogant blaming of the community(the WHOLE) as opposed to where the blame REALLY belongs(the ONE) is very convenient and basically worn out. SERIOUSLY?

  3. For all these people blaming the community for failing this ‘little girl’, please don’t include me.
    I take no responsibility for her upbringing. I raised kids who are all adults today. All doing well in life with families and careers of their own. I am not responsible for some stranger.

    It is my understanding, tho I have no proof, this ‘little girl’ attended an elite private school.
    She is, IMO, a spoiled brat who spent more time on Tik Tok than reading a book.
    (I heard the PTC WalMart was one of 4 part of a national Tik Tok challenge to set a fire in)

  4. Get a rope. Wait, get four ropes. One for the criminal, each parent, and of course the community that failed the poor little child. Maybe one for Walmart too. They share participation blame for focusing eyes more on self-checkout mistakes than the juvenile delinquents overrunning their stores.

    You guys crack me up.

      • You miss the point. Who hasn’t done something that later might be seen as stupid, wrong, illegal? Most, if not all adults can probably reflect back on the things we have done and gotten away with for no reason other than luck. Once in a while a stupid and dangerous act goes wrong and there are consequences, sometimes people die and sometimes people go to jail.

        Drinking and driving, speeding, improper gun handling, playing with fire… The list is forever long what people do daily and get away with.

        What gets me is how so many come on here and start with the mindless drivel about parenting, delinquency, community failure, politics, and consequences as if they had never done anything stupid while also never facing serious consequences.

        It’s the mindless, self-righteous drivel in the comments that I am referring to as humorous. This kid did something that, regardless of motive, was exceeding stupid and will pay a price. Let’s all quit pretending that we wouldn’t be in the same situation except for simple luck. Of course if you were that one in a million perfect kid then never mind.

        • Yes Mike – How foolish of me to fail to understand that only “simple luck” saved me from burning down a megastore. I guess in Mike-world, we are all devoid of agency and live by the fates of the gods.

          Truth is stranger than fiction!

  5. @TheOnlyTruth you’re spreading fake news or are simply uninformed on our rules of driving golf carts in our city. Kids 7-14 most definitely aren’t allowed to drive golf carts in our paths or roads. They have to be 15 years old to drive by themselves on the paths or the roads. While younger drivers can drive while accompanied with an adult. Your comments don’t hold much water and how do they pertain to the 14 year old setting a fire at Walmart?

  6. The community is responsible? Definitely a fan of participation trophies. She’s responsible and now her parent/parents will be responsible for the mountain of financials that it’ll take to pay for all of the damages and legal fees too. This kid is 14, yes still a minor, but a far cry from a little girl. She knew what she was doing, that’s why she went to what is probably the most flammable part of the store, without being explosive, giving her plenty of time to get out. In the words of the great wordsmith Doja Cat, “she ain’t no dummy. ” She knew exactly what she was doing.

  7. Because it bothers me that if they aren’t old enough to get a learners permit to get drive a car, but the kids in peachtree city can drive a golf cart at any age and most, if not all, of the golf carts have some kind of encounter with the automobiles so why is it ok for kids to drive a golf cart at the age of 7-14 to drive the golf carts?

  8. Where was this child’s adult supervision? Did she ride to walmart with her parent or parents, set the place on fire and then ride home with them? Or is she one of MANY YOUNG KIDS THAT RIDE A GOLF CART? Because it bothers me that if they aren’t old enough to get a learners permit to drive a car, but the kids in peachtree city can drive a golf cart at any age and most, if not all, of the golf carts have some kind of encounter with the automobiles so why is it ok for kids to drive a golf cart at the age of 7-14 to drive the golf carts?

  9. Gman said it well: ‘Social media motivation?’ Increased communications paths between adolescents (telephones in the 1960’s and now the internet) creates more bullies. These bullies create dares that parents know nothing about. Parents have to be in more control of their kid’s leisure time and imaginative avenues. If we don’t do it, the state will have to in some fashion in the near future.

  10. This is just sad. What would cause a teenager to have such poor judgement as to do this? I feel for the parents who are now faced with dealing with this. You wonder how a life that started out so innocently 14 years ago would be capable of something like this. This poor girl is going to need some help getting over this. At least she admitted to it – that’s one decent sign.

  11. Walmart is not a 24-hour store. That’s so 2020…

    This 14 year old set her self up for success in life. College, job applications. She is good to go! Oh wait…

    *Gasp* I assumed her gender pronouns! Will the anti-free speech, anti-freedom, lunatic progressive Democrats come get me?

    • I am sad that our community failed a 14-year old girl. I don’t think she fully appreciated her actions in this situation, and now her life is forever changed. We must use this as a teaching moment in our own homes. She is still a child. And we failed to teach her that what she saw isn’t real. It’s even hard for adults to tell the difference, so it’s that much harder for children to understand.

      The lessons for our children on the threat must be constant, because the risk is constant. If we could talk to this child a week ago and teach her this lesson, we can picture a happier outcome. But actions based on Internet fiction have real and life altering consequences.

      This is amplified by the fact we live in enormous privilege, where so many of us shelter our children from natural consequences when the stakes are small. Children turn into adults and have to navigate all the choices of life based on a million minor lessons, and sheltering them from the small problems makes the bigger problems more difficult.

      I will talk to my own children about this, so that they know what happened. It was the topic of conversation for days in our schools. Rumor and speculation were rampant. And now we’re left with the real damage and the emotional burden of saying that a child did this. But we did it too.

        • I ask the same question. If anyone or anything failed, it was her parenting. The “community” did not play a role. Blaming a vague and unidentifiable group for her actions is merely an excuse to put one’s head in the sand. As a sidebar… when a child earns a spot on the school honor roll, semester after semester, is that the result of the “community”? Becoming Valedictorian? Earn recognition for community and charity volunteer service? Win the National Spelling Bee? Perform at Carnegie Hall (my niece did at age 16). Earn a college scholarship? Most young people are a reflection of what they are exposed to and that exposure and influence begins and ends with parenting.

      • The girl is 14 which is more than old enough to be aware of what she was doing. Six is a “little girl”, not 14. Society did not “fail” her. She failed herself. Can you tell I’m tired of the excuses people make for the bad behavior of American children? We need to go back to rearing children, not parenting them.

        • As a public policy matter, we recognize that people under 18 years of age aren’t mature enough to make tough decisions for themselves, and still require support from their parents, their teachers, their public officials, their religious leaders, and their neighbors.

          Society failed this child because we talk past each other, form tribes, and ignore those in need. Here was a teenager, presumably looking for attention and popularity. Where was a parent, teacher, public official, religious leader, or neighbor to dissuade this child?

          This parenting versus rearing view was recently taken by John Rosemond in an article that recently ran in The Citizen. And I generally agree with the premise of natural consequences that he espouses. I also agree that we live in a community where children want for almost nothing, and as a result, miss so many opportunities to learn of natural consequences through the thousands of minor interactions that teach children. When we go to the store and my children ask for a toy, they know the first thing out of my mouth will be, “did you bring your money?” They also know that you say please and thank you to each other and to others. That’s parenting; I established and communicated clear boundaries, and they are regularly reinforced.

          Bad behavior in our communities begins when we don’t look out for each other. If you tolerate rudeness, what does that tell a child? Other people aren’t important. Maybe you don’t say something when a friend drinks and then gets on a golf cart to go home. What does that tell a child? Rules aren’t important. Where is the line between what’s acceptable and unacceptable? The way that children learn that is through observation.

          • 18 is not always the case..although I see no mention of Arson here.

            “Any child age 17 and over is considered an adult under Georgia law. However, if the juvenile commits the crime on the last day of his/her 16th year, he/she may be treated as an adult, no matter how minor the offense.
            If the minor is over the age of 13 and is charged with certain violent crimes (e.g., rape, aggravated sexual assault, murder, voluntary manslaughter, armed robbery), the minor is considered an adult and will be tried as such, unless the court deems it appropriate to transfer the case down to juvenile court.
            If the crime allegedly committed by a minor age 13 and over carries a possible penalty of death or life without parole, the minor must be tried as an adult.
            If the minor is 14 or older, currently in juvenile custody, and allegedly commits murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault or aggravated battery, the juvenile must be tried as an adult. Likewise, if a minor 15 or older has been convicted of three burglaries and has been charged with a fourth, he/she will automatically be tried as an adult for the fourth offense.
            Under certain circumstances, a juvenile court has the authority to determine that a minor 15 or older should be transferred to the adult courts.”

          • This 14-year old did a bad thing, and she will spend the rest of her life suffering the consequences for it. I simply wonder if we can also examine motivations for committing this crime. We can’t stop every bad thing from happening, but what if we can reflect and stop some of them.

      • Hi Trail Walking…I think the most telling statement is,”She is still a child. And we failed to teach her that what she saw (I assume you mean her time on social media and the swill it spews) isn’t real. It’s even hard for adults to tell the difference, so it’s that much harder for children to understand”.
        Your comments are a bit syrupy for me and individuals are responsible for their actions….but I think it states the fact that so many kids now have no sense of reality….not only was it “real” but it was “observed” and “reported”.