Albemarle Walmart fire deemed arson, suspect arrested

Alexander Lentz (Source: Albemarle Police Department)

ALBEMARLE — On Dec. 18 at around 8:30 p.m., shoppers at the Albemarle Walmart notified store staff, who then notified the local police and fire departments, that there was a blazing fire in the lawn and garden section of the store, which is outside the building.  

Albemarle Fire Chief Pierre Brewton told SCJ in a phone interview that they sent three trucks. 

“Once crews arrived on scene, they saw heavy smoke and fire outside the lawn and garden area,” Brewton said. “They quickly deployed their hose lines and secured the fire. They were able to get to it at a very quick rate.” 

While firefighters were fighting the blaze, the Albemarle Police Department was on scene looking for responsible parties.  

“Upon investigation of the cause of the fire, Officers located a suspicious male on video leaving the area where the fire began,” an APD press release stated. “Patrol officers were able to locate the suspect hiding behind the dumpster at Dollar Tree. After a short altercation, the suspect was taken into custody.” 

The suspect, Alexander H. Lentz, 33, was then booked for multiple charges, including: first-degree arson; burning of personal property; intoxicated and disruptive; assault on a government official; and resisting a public officer. 

The Walmart, located at 781 Leonard Ave., had inventory in the lawn and garden section destroyed, but luckily no customers or staff were injured and the building did not sustain any significant damage. 

“It left no one injured and no structural members damaged,” Brewton told SCJ. “There was scorching and what have you, but no members that were damaged.” 

Members are structural elements like columns or beams that are key to the integrity of a building.  

Lentz received a $150,000 secured bond and is first due in court on Dec. 28 at 9 a.m.