Man Seen On Video Trying To Set Tropics Restaurant Ablaze, Police Say

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Julio "The Rabbi" Edwards

One man's early morning attempt to set a restaurant on fire literally blew up in his face, and it was all captured by a surveillance camera.

The restaurant, at 2000 Wilton Drive, was targeted Wednesday at about 5:10 a.m., police said, by Julio Edwards, 68. Fortunately, the flames fizzled and did not spread.

Edwards, arrested Wednesday after police officers and restaurant employees watched the surveillance video, appeared in court Thursday. He was held without bond on charges that included arson, burglary of a business, and possession of marijuana, police said.

The surveillance footage is dramatic. It shows a man, dressed all in white with dark suspenders, holding a large cup that appears to contain a flammable liquid.

Next, he appears to intentionally pour the undetermined liquid on to a wood fence outside the restaurant and on to its back door.

He tries to ignite the fence with a lighter. It doesn't catch, so he tries again, this time igniting a large burst of flames that erupts in his face.

The man then runs off.

About three hours later, Meyer said, a manager who arrived to open for business discovered the damage. Meyer said he was surprised the flames did not spread.

"We have a pretty nasty smell in [the restaurant] from the fire," he said. "Somebody could have gotten hurt."

Wilton Manors police and Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue were called in to investigate the fire. Investigators watched the surveillance video, as did restaurant employees.

Employees identified Edwards in the video and told officers he was a patron who had been banned from the business about three weeks earlier for being "a little too outgoing" when he drank, Meyer said.

"We told him he was banned but he was not willing to leave, so we called the police and they got him out," he said.

Meyer said the restaurant also asked Wilton Manors police to issue a trespass warning to Edwards on Sunday.

At his first appearance in Broward bond court Thursday, Edwards did not appear to have any burns to his face, beard or hair.

He was scheduled to return to court Friday for another bond hearing.

Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

From our media partner Sun Sentinel


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