UPDATE #1: ARREST MADE*** MOLOTOV COCKTAIL USED TO IGNITE FIRE INSIDE LOCAL BUSINESS
(Lawrenceville, Ga., December 11, 2017) – Gwinnett County Fire Investigators have made an arrest in the case of a Molotov cocktail that was thrown through the window of the Waypoint Homes office suite in (unincorporated) Stone Mountain. The incident occurred just before 7 a.m. on November 13, 2017. An employee was inside the business at the time of the incident, but was not hurt.
Fire Investigators released video surveillance footage in the days following in hopes that someone would recognize the individual responsible or the getaway vehicle that was used. It wasn’t until almost three-weeks later, and while at the scene of a residential fire at a property managed by Waypoint Homes, that a Fire Investigator recognized similarities in the physical description and vehicle driven by the person renting the damaged home.
Fire Investigators say that 45-year-old Nkenge McDowell of Lawrenceville, confessed to the crime while being interviewed at Fire Headquarters on December 7, 2017. McDowell was allowed to get things in order at home and with her family before turning herself in to the authorities the following day. McDowell is charged by Fire Investigators with two felonies and one misdemeanor to include warrants for: First Degree Arson, Manufacturing/Transporting/Distributing/ Possessing with intent to distribute and offering to distribute an Explosive Device, and Criminal Trespass Unlawful Purpose. She is currently being held at the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond. A motive in the case appears to be centered on financial woes, as McDowell was behind on the rent and was scheduled to be evicted from her home.
The residential fire which led investigators to identify McDowell as a suspect occurred on November 30, 2017 in the 295 block of Plantation View Drive in (unincorporated) Lawrenceville. The fire was reported by Sheriff’s Deputies who showed up at the location to serve an eviction notice. They observed smoke coming from the house and notified the dispatcher via radio to alert the Fire Department. The fire was quickly put out by firefighters and caused extensive damage inside the home. There was no one at the house when deputies discovered the fire and no injuries were reported. The exact cause of the house fire is currently undetermined and is under active investigation. It is unknown at this point whether the fire at McDowell’s home was accidental or intentionally set. Additional information in the case is not being released at this time.
Arrest Booking Photo: NKENGE MCDOWELL, Age-45
USED TO IGNITE FIRE INSIDE LOCAL BUSINESS
(Stone Mountain, Ga., November 13, 2017) – Gwinnett County Fire Investigators are currently looking into a deliberate act of arson against a local business in (unincorporated) Lilburn. The incident occurred on November 13, 2017 at the Waypoint Homes, located in the 4051 block of Stone Mountain Highway, SW near Killian Hill Road. Firefighters were called to the scene by an employee shortly before 7 a.m.
The employee was working inside the office area at the time and heard glass breaking as an object was thrown through the window of a nearby conference room. The employee hesitated at first and immediately thought that someone was attempting to break into the business. After a few seconds, the employee went to the front and encountered smoke and flames coming from the conference room. The employee sprang into action and quickly doused the fire before calling 9-1-1. Responding fire crews found the fire extinguished on arrival and worked to clear smoke from the structure. Fire Investigators were requested to respond based on the suspicious circumstances.
Fire Investigators collected evidence from the scene that included remnants of a spent Molotov cocktail, liquid accelerant and a rock. Video evidence was also obtained by Fire Investigators that shows an unidentified subject throwing a rock through the window and tossing a flaming object inside the room. The subject then drives off in a sedan. “Fortunately, the employee was not injured and was able to quickly smother the fire with a floor mat and water,” said Gwinnett Fire Captain Tommy Rutledge. The blaze caused minor damage to a wall and part of the carpeting within the conference room and sent smoke throughout the office suite. Fire Investigators are talking with management and employees at the business to develop potential leads. The business appears to have been targeted; however, there is no suspect or motive for the crime.
Anyone with information about the fire or the individual seen in the video footage is asked to please contact the Gwinnett Fire Investigations Section at 678.518.4890 or the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 1-800-282-5804. Georgia Arson Control, Inc. offers a reward of UP TO $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible. Arson is a serious felony crime and is punishable by imprisonment and associated fines. The individual in this particular case will likely face a host of felony charges based on endangering the occupant, as well as, others within the mixed-use office and retail plaza.