Columbus, Ohio (WSYX) — A man connected to an attempted aggravated arson case at a medical facility in Westerville on Thursday has been taken into custody, police said.
The man, identified in jail records as 26-year-old Izuchukwu Ogbuehi, was believed to have left gasoline in a medical facility lobby and threatened to light it, officials said.
"A gallon of gasoline was in the exit way, which is the way many people would come and go from that building," Westerville Deputy Fire Chief David Williams said. "This could have killed many folks."
Westerville police said that this suspect had started two other fires Thursday morning. One at the Kroger on Morse Road and another at the McDonald's on Morse Road.
"We are very lucky none of them resulted in any injuries at all," Detective Justice Alloway with Westerville Police said. "I can’t see any connection between the three and until we talk to him."
No damage or injuries were reported, police said. Both were small fires that CFD responded to.
Charging documents cited a witness who reportedly saw the suspect pouring liquid from a clear plastic container onto the floor. The witness said he was holding what appeared to be a pice of paper and a lighter.
Officers said surveillance video from a gas station at 462 W. Main St. showed the same man pumping $4 worth of gas into a clear plastic bottle.
Once in custody, the man refused to speak or confirm his identity, court documents said.
According to city officials, the medical facility was evacuated, but everyone is now back inside. No one was injured, and no major damage was reported.
"As I was pulling into the parking lot, I could see there was one big fire truck and an ambulance with the lights on," Lizett Schreiber said. "I thought something is going on in the building, and we are portably not allowed inside."
Schreiber said she was taking her son to an appointment at the building shortly after the medical facility had been evacuated.
Schreiber described what it was like inside the facility once patients and staff were allowed back in the building.
"As soon as you hit the front entrance you could smell a strong smell of gasoline, you know like when you are at a gas station filling up and you can smell the strong gas smell," she said. "I don’t know what the suspect's motivation might be, but it was certainly scary and I was glad I wasn’t there earlier when all of that was happening."
Schreiber said she felt safe going back into the medical building.
"Because I had heard that he left the area and there was a police presence in the lobby, I guess I figured the danger had passed and there was appropriate surveillance around," she said.
"This was definitely not how I expected today to go," Schreiber continued. "Thankfully, it sounds like he wasn’t able to complete whatever his plan was, and it wasn’t any worse than that."
Ogbuehi was taken into custody on Thursday afternoon. His arraignment in Franklin County Municipal Court is slated for Friday morning.
"Always be aware of your surroundings," Deputy Chief Williams cautioned. "This is the perfect example of knowing multiple ways out of a building."