Updated: August 08, 2019 06:25 PM
A van fire in a Fridley Walmart parking lot, which left a 6-year-old dead and a 9-year-old in critical condition, may have started from a stove in the back of the vehicle.
The Anoka County Sheriff's Office confirmed the 6-year-old died from her injuries Tuesday night. A GoFundMe identified the 6-year-old as Ty'rah White.
A family friend identified the 9-year-old as Taraji White.
Court documents state Roberto Lino Hipolito, 70, faces one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of negligent fire. Hipolito is currently being held in custody on the charges.
According to the criminal complaint, at 7:13 a.m. on Aug. 6, officers from the Fridley Police and Fire Departments along with the Anoka County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of several motor vehicles on fire in the parking lot of a Walmart located at 8450 University Avenue.
As fire crews were in the process of extinguishing the flames, a woman ran out of the store, screaming that her kids were in one of the vehicles. Firefighters then removed the two children, ages 6 and 9, from the vehicle. Both children were transported to Hennepin County Medical Center in critical condition at the time.
Officers later learned through surveillance video and witnesses that a Dodge Caravan with North Carolina license plates had been the initial vehicle to start the fire, and that the fire had started in the rear of the van. Officials from the Anoka County Fire Investigation Team, as well as the State Fire Marshal, concluded through a preliminary investigation the fire may have been caused by a cookstove that had been recovered. The fire had extended to the vehicle in which the girls were located.
Roberto Lino Hipolito, the owner of the van, was interviewed by police. He told authorities he and his wife had parked in the parking lot, then slept overnight in the van. When he was asked about the cookstove, he said he had not used it for several days, then later clarified he had used it the previous night. Additional surveillance video showed Hipolito placing the stove on the pavement by the rear of the van, then using it to cook something. The complaint states after cooking, and without significant time to allow the stove to cool, he put the stove in the rear of the van. Moments later, the vehicle was moved to a closer parking spot by the entrance of the store.
Hipolito was then seen entering the store, and approximately two minutes later, a passerby alerted Hipolito's wife of a fire in the parking lot. Police said she ran out and tried to remove belongings, but the fire intensified within 30 seconds of the rear door being opened. The complaint goes on to say within three to four minutes, both cars on each side of the van were on fire. Both vehicles sustained significant damage and are likely totaled.
When Hipolito was interviewed once more, he confessed to authorities he had used the stove that morning to cook, then placed it into the rear of the van. Additionally he stated he had tossed pillows and blankets to the rear of the van, in the area of the stove, when he moved the van to a closer parking spot.
The 9-year-old child remains in critical condition. A GoFundMe has been created by family.
Updated: August 08, 2019 06:25 PM
Published: August 07, 2019 12:00 AM
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