On Friday afternoon a man apparently walked into The Wilde Collection at 1446 Yale St., poured gasoline on the floor of the eccentric taxidermy shop, and set it ablaze, according to multiple witnesses.
Bryon Myers of Port Neches was standing in the store with several friends at the time of the incident. Myers said he saw a man with dark hair walk into the shop holding two cans of gasoline.
"He just kind of turns them, drops them, and lights the shit," said Myers. "I was like, 'Oh shit, this isn't a gimmick.'"
According to Myers, after igniting the blaze the man immediately exited the store as the flames quickly engulfed the front portion. Myers and his friends dropped to the floor, while someone near them attempted to put it out with a fire extinguisher. As smoke filled the room, Myers and his companions were able to open a window and crawl out of the shop onto a driveway. A bystander then opened the gate to the driveway, Myers said, and he and his friends exited to Yale Street.
Meanwhile, some off-duty police officers and other bystanders who had seen the suspect leaving the store stopped him and pinned him to the ground. Myers said it was the same man he'd seen in the store. The suspect was subsequently taken into HPD custody. Standing nearby, Myers heard the man say, "I didn't want to hurt anybody; God told me to do it."
Houston Fire District Chief Joseph Leggio said HFD received a call stating that someone had set the store on fire at 1:57 p.m. When HFD arrived with two ladder trucks, four engines, and support personnel at the Wilde Collection, also known as Oddities & Curiosities, flames were billowing out of the store windows. "Bystanders told us that someone had poured gas in there and lit it off," Leggio said. HFD firefighters extinguished the blaze within 20 minutes, according to Leggio.
Leggio said the origin of the fire is being investigated by the HFD arson division and that the identity of the suspect is unknown, although some local internet users had theories, as one area man had made a Twitter post that appeared to threaten the shop just 14 hours beforehand.
Employees and customers who were inside the shop when the fire was started were treated for smoke inhalation, and there were no injuries, Leggio said. The live peacocks that are kept in the store also escaped any harm.