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Man, 23, charged with setting fires at Walmart, shopping mall

By the CNN Wires Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alexander Piggee was indicted on two counts of arson on Thursday, documents show
  • The first relates to a fire at a Walmart, and the second to one at a shopping mall
  • Police say he walked into a store at the mall and announced he had a weapon
  • The mall blaze was so big that California's governor declared a state of emergency

(CNN) -- A 23-year-old man was indicted Thursday on two counts of arson related to blazes set at a northeast California Walmart and another at a mall that took firefighters a full day to knock down, according to court documents.

Each of the two charges facing Alexander Piggee carry a maximum $250,000 fine, between 20 months and five years in jail and three or more years of probation. Piggee remains in federal custody, according to authorities.

Both stem from incidents on October 21. According to the indictment, filed by the office of Eastern District of California U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, Piggee "knowingly and maliciously" used fire to damage a Walmart store in Sacramento.

He then moved onto the Westville Galleria at Roseville, a mall about 10 miles to the northeast, authorities allege.

There, police have said that Piggee walked into a video game store carrying a backpack that smelled of kerosene, and then announced he had a weapon.

Roseville police and fire departments rushed to the scene, but both stalled in entering the mall because of the possibility that the suspect may have had a bomb, according to a report released days later by the city's police and fire department.

The report said that a maintenance worker at the mall shut off the sprinkler system in the section where the fire started, and it remained off for 71 minutes. It was unclear why the worker did so.

No one was killed in either blaze, though two firefighters suffered injuries while battling the mall fire.

The mall, about 18 miles northwest of Sacramento, was evacuated during the incident, and it remained closed after the suspect was arrested. No bomb was ever recovered from the mall.

The damage was so severe that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency at the time. The governor's order suspended a one-week waiting period for store employees who seek unemployment benefits in Placer County.