Cops: Quarrel Leads to Torching of Texas Warehouse

The spat between former business partners has been going on for about two years.


June 07--MCALLEN -- Police say a quarrel that dragged on between two local businessmen for more than two years finally erupted last month -- in flames.

McAllen police on Wednesday arrested 56-year-old Francisco Ayala Ramirez in connection with a May 21 fire at a ropa usada warehouse at 6600 South 27th Street.

Ramirez was formally charged with arson in the case and posted a $500,000 bond at the Hidalgo County Jail on Thursday.

Investigators say the apparent arson came from a rivalry between Ramirez and his former partner, Enrique Ramos.

The spat between the two men began in September 2011, when the former business partners cut ties after Ramirez assaulted Ramos and threatened his wife.

In January 2013, Ramirez tried to torch Ramos' warehouse -- Halcon LLC -- by breaking through the wall and setting the building's insulation on fire.

But the fire didn't spread or engulf the building like it did in May.

Detectives caught Ramirez after firefighters found a sledgehammer, a jacket, some gloves, a lighter and a gasoline can at the burnt warehouse and were able to track the items to the Home Depot at 120 South Shary Road in Mission.

Surveillance video from the store showed three men buying the items. Detectives released the photos to the local media and last week received a tip that led them to one of the hired men.

Another person spoke with investigators about having seen Ramirez talking with two other men at his business, Rammes Used Clothing, at 8109 S. 23rd St., about burning two warehouses.

On the night of the fire, the two hired men used a green Chevrolet Tahoe to drive to the warehouse and then abandoned the vehicle near the intersection of 23rd Street and Military highway. The ensuing blaze was a rare three-alarm fire, meaning nearly all the city's fire engines respond -- the first in about four years.

County jail records have not listed the two men as having been charged in the case. If convicted of causing the fire -- that resulted in one firefighter injured -- Ramirez faces between five and 99 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

iortiz@themonitor.com

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