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Man attacks family and sets Fresno home ablaze in fracas over 'inadequate' cigarette, police say

A knife-wielding man was arrested Tuesday after setting his family’s home on fire following a violent dispute with relatives over a cigarette, police said.

Richard Garcia, 58, was taken into custody on suspicion of arson and assault with a deadly weapon, according to Lt. Joe Gomez, a spokesman for the Fresno Police Department.

When police were initially called to the home at 11:45 a.m., officers thought they were dealing with a family disturbance, he said. But as officers drove to the home in the 1100 block of West Lansing Way, they learned the home was on fire.

Officers arrived to find Garcia sitting on the porch of the home with a knife in his hands as flames spread through the residence behind him, Gomez said. Garcia had cuts on his legs and hands because he had been slicing himself with the knife, police said.

“During this period, Garcia claimed he started the fire to kill ‘those people,’ but he would not say who he was talking about in the residence,” the lieutenant said.

Soon after, firefighters arrived and put out the blaze.

As officers investigated the fire, they discovered Garcia had attacked his family earlier that day over a cigarette his brother-in-law had given him, Gomez said. The family lives together at the Fresno home.

“Garcia was upset because he felt the cigarette was inadequate,” he said.

Police said he struck his brother-in-law in the head and hit his sister with a crowbar. According to the lieutenant, Garcia then grabbed a hammer and hit them.

After hitting them with the crowbar and hammer, Gomez said, Garcia picked up a kitchen knife and chased them around the home.

The couple ran into separate rooms when Garcia started the fire, he said.

“Unbeknownst to Garcia, both victims escaped the residence before Garcia started the fire,” Gomez said. “The male victim climbed out a bedroom window and the female victim ran out the front door of the house as Garcia ran into the kitchen.”

Authorities said they don’t know how Garcia started the fire.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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