AFTER THE RIOTS: THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS : Owners Accused of Burning Own Stores

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The owners of two different Long Beach businesses have been arrested on charges that they torched their own stores during last week's rioting, while Compton authorities say they may have a couple of similar cases in their city.

Three Orange County men were being held on $1.5-million bail each Friday after they were arrested for arson Thursday for allegedly setting fire to their East 4th Street market the night of April 30, completely destroying it. Two brothers have also been charged with taking advantage of last week's mayhem to burn their Redondo Avenue video shop the night of May 1.

Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Robert A. Caldon said investigators became suspicious of the blaze that raged through Eddie's Market after talking to witnesses who reported seeing the owners cart valuables and a cash register out of the store just as the fire was breaking out. It started during the height of disturbances in Long Beach, and by the time firefighters arrived, the market was in flames.

Arrested were Cypress residents Jack Stout, 57, the owner; his son, Bryan Stout, 35, and a friend of theirs, John Baur, 57, of Stanton. Their bail was high, authorities said, because of the value of the building, estimated at $750,000.

Caldon said an anonymous tipster led arson investigators to UC Video the night of May 1, when they saw flames break out shortly after watching Gilbert Ramirez leave his brother's store.

Gilbert, 29, was arrested soon afterward when he returned to watch as firefighters were dousing the flames, preventing extensive damage. He remains in jail in lieu of $80,000 bail. Gilbert's brother, Arthur Ramirez, 32, was arrested Sunday and released the same day on a $20,000 bond, according to County Jail officials.

With looting and arson skipping around the western side of Long Beach at the end of last week, Caldon remarked that he and his colleagues had joked that "if you had a bad business, now is the time to burn it down. Then it happened. They saw a way out. They thought they could get away with it."

Meanwhile in Compton, Fire Marshal Marvin Porter said his department is investigating a couple of fires.

"We have a couple of incidents where the building was completely secured, there was no sign of looting, yet the buildings were (engulfed in flames). That seems a bit strange to me."

Time staff writer Tina Griego contributed to this story.

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