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O.C. auto mechanic accused of setting fire to transient

January 5, 2010 |  2:32 pm

A Santa Ana auto mechanic was to be arraigned today on charges of setting a transient and his possessions on fire after dousing the victim's shopping cart with gasoline.

Hector Manuel Medina, 32, is charged with one felony count of arson causing great bodily injury, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.

Medina, a mechanic at Santa Ana Firestone Complete Auto Care, allegedly confronted 64-year-old transient Ruben Sandoval in the alley behind the auto shop on Sunday. Medina apparently was angered because he had previously found the transient sleeping in his car on a rainy day, said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

After spotting Sandoval, Medina allegedly took a gas canister from the garage, approached the victim and his shopping cart, and doused the cart with gasoline, some of which splashed onto Sandoval, Emami said.

Medina then allegedly set the cart on fire with a match, but the flames jumped and set the victim's beard on fire. Sandoval attempted to put out the flames with his hands, Emami said.

Sandoval suffered second and third-degree burns to his body, face, and hands. The contents of his cart, which included clothing, blankets and food, were destroyed.

Medina allegedly fled the area but was arrested soon after near his home, Emami said. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in state prison. Medina is being held on $100,000 bail.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy