Samuel Maldonado-Tapia busted for starting fire at Walmart, holding child at knifepoint

Update: Earlier today, we told you about the arrest of Samuel Maldonado-Tapia for allegedly starting a fire in a Broomfield Walmart; see our original coverage below. We noted in that post that we'd reached out to the Broomfield Police Department for more information, and the BPD has just responded with details as weird as the crime itself.

When officers arrived at the scene just shy of 2 p.m. yesterday, a department release notes, they saw smoke, as well as customers running from the building.

No wonder, because when the cops reached Maldonado-Tapia, he is said to have been holding a knife to the throat of a six-year-old boy sitting in a shopping cart.

The boy and his mom, a 43-year-old Northglenn resident, had been nearby when she'd noticed a clothing rack of clothes on fire. She was just about to dial 911 on her cell phone when police say Maldonado-Tapia told her to come to him, using a knife as persuasion. He then tried to grab her, the release continues, causing her to fall to the floor, and prompting him to switch his attentions to the boy.

At that point, officers came on the scene and ordered him to drop the knife. Which he did -- but cops say he also tried to run away.

He didn't get far. BPD reps promptly tackled him. Custody followed.

According to the department, there's no known relationship between Maldonado-Tapia and either the woman or her son. It appears that their involvement in the incident was entirely random.

There's no motive mentioned for Maldonado-Tapia's actions, but police believe they know how the fire started. The spokesman says he used an accelerant found in the store -- meaning, presumably, he grabbed it off the shelf and proved that it worked.

Right now, Maldonado-Tapia is being held at the Broomfield Detention Center on a potpourri of charges: first-degree kidnapping, attempted second-degree kidnapping, menacing, first-degree arson and, for good measure, a traffic warrant out of Adams County.

Here's a larger look at Maldonado-Tapia's mug shot, followed by our earlier reportage.

Original post, 8:13 a.m. September 4: Plenty of folks fortunate enough to have Labor Day off spent it getting together with friends and family or maybe just chilling.

But only one of them was arrested after allegedly starting a fire in a Broomfield Walmart. He's identified as Samuel Madonado-Tapia, and this is his story.

At 1:46 p.m. yesterday, according to the Broomfield Police Department, cops and members of North Metro Fire Rescue were dispatched to the store, on the 4600 block of West 121st Avenue, on a report of visible flames inside.

But this was no electrical fire. Officers believe a man ID'd by KWGN as Maldonado-Tapia, 28, set some clothes on fire and the threatened two shoppers with a knife.

Maldonado-Tapia was apparently more cooperative with the cops, since he was taken into custody without incident. But the store was evacuated and remained closed for hours. Not that Walmart complains about lost revenue in a statement shared with KWGN. It reads in part, "Walmart's top concern is the safety and security of our customers and associates. We are grateful that everyone is going to be OK and appreciate the quick response by police and fire."

We've made a call to the Broomfield PD for more information and will update this post when and if representatives respond. In the meantime, here's the KWGN package.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Earl Moore charged with arson, not terrorism, in Southwest Plaza bomb try near Columbine."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts