He took a dog into a public bathroom in Los Banos, then tried to torch the place, police say

Patrick Walker, 35, of Merced, was arrested Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, a day after he allegedly set fire to a bathroom inside the Los Banos Target store, Los Banos police said.
Patrick Walker, 35, of Merced, was arrested Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, a day after he allegedly set fire to a bathroom inside the Los Banos Target store, Los Banos police said. Courtesy Merced County Sheriff's Office

No one was injured after a man locked himself inside a family bathroom in the Los Banos Target and tried to set it on fire, police said.

Los Banos police officers responded to reports of an unknown person locking himself in the bathroom of the department store with smoke showing at about 12:13 p.m. Wednesday, Sgt. Ivan Mendez said.

Officers saw the smoke coming from the locked bathroom as they arrived and evacuated the store, Mendez said.

Officers then called to the individual, later identified as 35-year-old Patrick Walker, ordering him to come out, Mendez said. But there was no response.

The Los Banos Fire Department and Riggs ambulance service responded to the building and staged outside as police assessed the threat.

Officers unlocked the door and entered the bathroom, finding Walker inside with a husky-breed dog and a small fire in the corner of the room.

Both Walker and the dog were removed from the bathroom, Mendez said. The dog was unharmed and transported to a local animal shelter.

While officers were guiding Walker out of the room, a piece of his clothing was smoldering but was quickly put out, Mendez said. A Target official reportedly used an extinguisher to put out the bathroom fire.

Walker was transported to Los Banos Memorial Hospital for precautionary reasons and was arrested on suspicion of felony arson shortly after he was medically released Thursday, according to authorities.

Los Banos police were familiar with Walker from previous incidents, Mendez said.

“He appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance,” Mendez said.

After the scene was secure, fire officials moved in to assess the damage.

The total cost of the damage wasn’t available Thursday, Mendez said, adding the store opened up later Wednesday.

Los Banos Target officials declined to comment on the incident.

The store is the second Merced County Target in a year to have faced an arson.

TM Target Fire 3
An Atwater fire engine and cleanup crews were parked outside of the Super Target in Atwater on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, the day after someone set a fire inside the store. The store was closed to customers on Wednesday. Thaddeus Miller tmiller@mercedsunstar.com

On Aug. 7 last year, 42-year-old Atwater resident Jaime Rojas allegedly set fire to items in the toilet paper aisle of the Atwater Target store, Merced County prosecutors said.

No one reported injuries in the Atwater fire, officials said. But the fire, smoke and water caused widespread damage to a large number of products, shuttering the store for nearly a month.

Jaime Rojas, 42, of Atwater.jpg
Jaime Rojas, 42, of Atwater Merced County Sheriff's Office

Rojas, who was arrested after people on social media identified him from surveillance footage, has pleaded not guilty to felony arson, burglary and other charges, according to court records.

Rojas’ next scheduled court appearance is March 15.

Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.