JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Police on Wednesday morning arrested a man hours after another man was set on fire in downtown Jacksonville, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Michael Smith, 54, is charged with attempted murder.
The Sheriff’s Office said it appeared a man was doused with some type of flammable liquid and set on fire shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday near the intersection of West Union and North Main streets.
Police said people in the area were able to put the fire out themselves by the time first responders got to the scene. News4Jax was able to view a surveillance video recorded from a nearby business. People can be seen running across Main Street to come to the man’s aid. The video also shows multiple people stopping their cars and getting out to help the man.
According to an incident report, the man suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken to the UF Health Shands Hospital Burn Unit in Gainesville.
Multiple people told News4Jax that they know the man, who they said is homeless and uses a wheelchair.
D. Campbel, an employee at a nearby store, told News4Jax that the man is a regular customer. She also saw the surveillance video and commends the good Samaritans.
“That was a good thing you know,” Campbel said.
According to an arrest report, Smith was found several blocks away from the incident. He was booked about 4:40 a.m. Wednesday into the Duval County jail, online jail records show.
Smith made his first appearance that afternoon.
“Post Maranda, the suspect stated to officers that he is an arsonist, has a history of such crimes. He gave an unknown person some change to go get gasoline for him because he knew what he was doing as he planned to set the victim on fire,” a prosecutor said in court. “Later he threw gasoline from a bottle onto the victim. Mr. Smith took out his lighter and lit the victim on fire before walking away.”
Smith, who is homeless, told the judge that he needed a public defender.