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Eyewitness followed, led police to suspect who set homeless woman ablaze

Van Nuys Bus Bench Homeless Fire


A bus bench in Van Nuys where a sleeping woman, believed to be homeless, was burned early Thursday morning.

Los Angeles Police Department Commander Andrew Smith said an eyewitness helped lead investigators to the 24-year old suspect they believe set a homeless woman on fire early Thursday morning in Van Nuys.

"We had a good Samaritan who was an eyewitness who was passing by at the time. And that individual not only saw what happened but actually followed the suspect, but contacted the police and actually directed our officers to where this guy was hiding.”

LAPD arrested the suspect, Dennis Petillo, for allegedly dousing his 67-year old victim with a flammable liquid and lighting it. The woman was asleep on a bench outside a Walgreens on Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way. She remains in critical condition. 

There’s no word yet on suspect Dennis Petillo’s arraignment date.

Last week, a similar incident took place in South Los Angeles County when someone set a 55-year old homeless man on fire in front of a doughnut shop. Smith says the two incidents don’t appear to be related.

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