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Business owner foils arson attempt

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Police are investigating an apparent arson attempt at Richard's Auto Repair on Lafayette Blvd.

Police are investigating an apparent arson attempt at Richard’s Auto Repair on Lafayette Boulevard in Fredericksburg.

Richard Johnson wasn’t expecting company early Tuesday as he worked alone at his auto service shop on Lafayette Boulevard in Fredericksburg.

But about 2:30 a.m., Johnson got an unwelcome visit from someone who tried to burn his business down.

Between Johnson’s water hose and a quick response from the Fredericksburg Fire Department, the fire was extinguished after causing a relatively small amount of damage. Still, it left the business operator shaken.

“I’ve been here 25 years and never had an incident like this,” said Johnson, the operator of Richard’s Auto Service at 623 Lafayette Blvd.

City fire officials and police are investigating the apparent arson. No suspects had been identified as of Tuesday evening.

Johnson said he regularly works during the wee hours of the morning, in part because he gets more done at that time. He was in the main bay when he heard items falling on the other side of the building.

Alex Russell/

Police said the repair shop’s owner heard glass breaking, then someone sprayed some type of chemical and lit a fire. / ALEX RUSSELL/FREDERICKSBURG.COM

He went to investigate and heard someone pounding on large window, knocking out the glass. He said that as he yelled at whoever it was, some type of chemical was sprayed and lit on fire.

Johnson said he grabbed a water hose and sprayed while the would-be intruders continued releasing the accelerant. The person or persons left by the time firefighters arrived and finished dousing the flames.

Other than some burned curtains, the broken window and a charred file cabinet, the damage was minimal.

Johnson was still at the business Tuesday afternoon overseeing repairs and working on customers’ vehicles.

Johnson said he believes there was more than one person involved.

He said he refused to leave the building until police arrived because he thought the arsonists were trying to lure him out so they could rob him.

Cheriese Johnson said she was grateful that her husband was in the main bay when the incident started. She said that often at that time of morning, her husband naps in the area where the fire was set.

Richard Johnson said he also was grateful for God’s protection, but he plans to be better prepared should something similar happen again.

“I will be getting a gun permit,” he said. “And I will use it if I have to.”

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404