CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. – Shocking security video out of Northern California shows a serial shoplifter lighting a store clerk’s hair on fire with stolen lighter fluid after he tried to stop the suspect from stealing.
The Bay Area store clerk at Appian Food and Liquor in El Sobrante, Contra Costa County, is only identified as Suraj since he declined to reveal his last name out of fear of being targeted again. In the horrifying footage, he is seen tussling with a suspect identified as 38-year-old Kendall Burton.
On Sept. 22, Suraj’s head was doused in lighter fluid by Burton at the business, about 20 miles southwest of downtown San Francisco, according to a video obtained by KPIX News.
In the footage, another store employee is seen rushing to Suraj’s rescue while armed with a baseball bat, seconds before flames consume the clerk’s head after Burton ignited the fluid during the confrontation.
“I tried to cover his hand, but I don’t know. I don’t remember. He just lit the fire on me, you know,” Suraj described to the news outlet from his hospital bed. “I just rushed to the restroom, and I just splashed water on my face.”
Suraj will need several surgeries as a result of the burns he suffered in the attack. (GoFundMe)
Suraj has been employed at the store for the past five years. He was warned by co-workers at the start of his shift that Burton had already been in the business several times earlier in the day to steal lighter fluid. He said they routinely deal with shoplifters, but nothing of this magnitude has ever occurred.
“He just splashed lighter fluid on my face, and I was so scared that moment,” Suraj told KPIX.
Suraj is hospitalized at San Francisco’s Saint Francis Memorial Hospital since the horrifying attack. He suffered second- and third-degree burns to his face, neck, chest and shoulder.
As a result of his burns, he will need several surgeries, the New York Post reported.
Suraj said the crime of violence has affected not only him but his family.
“It’s terrible,” the clerk said. “You know, I’m still in a trauma right now, me, my family.”
“When we clean the wound, it’s like over 10,” the clerk said of the pain he’s experiencing in the aftermath of the attack.
Suraj’s wife, Sabeena, launched a GoFundMe page to help raise money for her husband’s physical and emotional care as he begins his long road to recovery.
“Wounds by the burn takes time to heal and recover and we are overwhelmed by the mental trauma and the pressure of medical procedures,” Sabeena wrote on the fundraising site.
Burton was identified as a homeless man in the area and was subsequently arrested following his total disregard for human life, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office told KPIX.
The suspect faces charges that include assault with a deadly weapon (ADW), battery, arson and robbery. He is being held in jail without bail.