Ventura police have determined that a severely burned homeless man was not intentionally doused with lighter fluid and set on fire, but that the ordeal was accidental.
Detectives investigating what was thought to be a brazen attack learned the fire mostly likely started inside his sleeping bag from a combination of alcohol and cigarettes, said Ventura police Sgt. Thomas Higgins. The bag burned from the inside out.
Lab tests did not find accelerants on the fabric of the sleeping bag.
When the attack was reported, the victim, John Frazier, told police three men doused lighter fluid on him Jan. 17 as he slept on the beach at the south end of Seaward Avenue in Ventura.
A witness reported seeing tall flames and Frazier’s entire upper torso and face on fire. The witness used sand to douse the flames.
Frazier suffered second- and third-degree burns to his torso and face.
When detectives tried to interview the 58-year-old again about the attack, his account of that night changed and he was uncooperative, police said.
Detectives also received information from a witness who contradicted Frazier’s initial statement.
The series of inconsistencies “raised doubt about this being a criminal act,” police said.
Police detectives and fire investigators have determined that the blaze was accidental.
At this point, Higgins said police will not be pursuing charges against Frazier for lying to police.
Frazier continues to receive treatment for his burns at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He is expected to recover from his injuries.
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