Back in September, when we told you about a man who nearly set himself ablaze while making a flaming deposit at a Colorado Springs bank, we thought we might be heading into Schmuck of the Week territory.
But we had no idea how complicated the story would get by the time we arrived.
The Colorado Springs Police Department has busted not one but two people in the case: Lee Laurie, the person allegedly seen in surveillance footage from the bank on view below, plus Joy Tomlinson, his live-in girlfriend.
Why a pair of arrests rather than just one? The CSPD believes the fireball was actually intended to cover up embezzlement at a convenience store where Tomlinson worked. Moreover, she was allegedly complicit in an armed robbery at the joint — one apparently carried out by Laurie on the business end of a gun.
Allow us to explain.
On September 8, as we've reported, firefighters from the city were called to a Wells Fargo bank at 5495 North Academy Boulevard because of what was described as a "gas smell at the building."
They soon discovered that a jar filled with "suspected gasoline" had been placed in the bank's overnight drop box.
At that point, security footage from outside the building was reviewed — and what footage it is.
The dude in question, who arrived at the bank on a bicycle, could be seen lighting the jar on fire as he placed it in the drop box — and the giant flames that resulted nearly engulf him.
Here's the clip.
The CSPD didn't make any immediate arrests after sharing the video.
But investigators say a new crime pointed them in the right direction.
On September 23, the department notes, officers and detectives were dispatched to a Circle K at 3805 Maizeland Road, where an armed robbery had just taken place.
Specifically, two employees said they'd been held up by a man with a handgun.
However, detectives began to suspect an inside job when they learned how much money was taken — "far more than should have been stored there," the CSPD maintains.
The Circle K.
Tomlinson, the Circle K's manager, said she hadn't made bank deposits for several days, in violation of store protocol — and her explanations were deemed "not credible."
Detectives subsequently gathered evidence they say shows that Tomlinson, with Laurie's assistance, had been stealing cash from the store over a period of several weeks, beginning earlier in September.
Along the way, several cash deposits that were supposed to have been made at the Wells Fargo branch went missing — and the cops theorize that the flaming jar of gas was meant to cover up for one due from the weekend of September 8.
How to prove it? The CSPD maintains that in a couple of frames from the video above, "there were some very distinctive features displayed on the BMX bike ridden by the suspect when he dropped the jar of gas."
The suspect and his bike.
YouTube file photo
You couldn't prove it by us — but the department says photos taken during a search of the couple's home in Fountain revealed a bike with those very same distinctive features!
The subsequent recovery of the bike, in addition to "a multitude of electronic communications between the two suspects," was enough to establish probable cause, the cops say.
As a result, Tomlinson was arrested on November 13, with Laurie turning himself in to authorities earlier this month. Both are suspected of theft and first-degree arson.
Once again, there's proof that it's not the crime — it's the cover-up.
Look below to see booking photos for Laurie and Tomlinson.
Colorado Springs Police Department
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Colorado Springs Police Department