Woodstock man charged in Wal-Mart arson

A Woodstock man was charged with arson Wednesday in connection with a fire that broke out inside the Wal-Mart in Woodstock and another fire in a dumpster across the street early Tuesday morning.

According to Shenandoah County Fire Marshal David A. Ferguson, members of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office arrested Leonard Garris Jr., 24, and charged him with the malicious burning or destroying of a building while occupied.

“A minimum of damage was done with fire and smoke,” Ferguson said. “As a matter of fact, the damage was contained to the item that was set on fire.”

Ferguson said the fire occurred in the hardware department just past midnight Tuesday, and that the item damaged – a standard piece of wood – sells for less than $10. Two Wal-Mart patrons extinguished the fire with a nearby extinguisher before it caused any additional damage.

When authorities were notified of the fire, Ferguson said on his way to the scene that he noticed a second fire had broken out in a dumpster across the street next to the Hampton Inn. Authorities contained the second fire to the dumpster and extinguished it within 15 minutes of arriving.

The dumpster fire occurred approximately one hour after the call about the first fire. Smoke from the dumpster fire seeped into the Hampton Inn, causing its fire alarms to go off, according to a news release from the fire marshal’s office.

The release noted that Wal-Mart was able to remain open following the fire there, although authorities closed the crime scene area for the investigation. That section was opened by 6 a.m.

In the news release, Ferguson thanked all who assisted with the fires and the investigation.

“The seriousness of the incident could have resulted in major property damage, injury, and or death,” he stated. “The commitment of all Law Enforcement and other agencies to resolve this matter in a timely fashion is to be commended. All agencies put in extensive man hours with some personnel remaining engaged throughout the duration of the investigation to the apprehension of Mr. Garris Jr.”

Garris is being held in custody. His arraignment is scheduled in Shenandoah County General District Court at 9 a.m. Friday.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com