Attacker Sets 2 People on Fire in Washington; 82-Year-Old Man Fights Back With Cane

A man splashed three strangers with lighter fluid and set fire to the hair of two of them in the downtown area after his first target, an 82-year-old man, bashed him with a metal cane, police and witnesses said.

No serious injuries were reported and Paul Alexander Pearson, 51, of Seattle, was arrested for investigation of assault and held without bail in the King County Jail, police Officer Debra Brown said.

Gus Jones, 82, of Seattle, apparently the first to be attacked, told The Seattle Times that "someone threw lighter fluid all on my back and I had to rap them with my cane" during the lunch hour Wednesday at an intersection by Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

Jones, recovering from a broken hip, fell to the pavement but was not set afire.

"I cussed him out," Jones told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I bent my cane."

Soon afterward, flames shot 3 feet high from a 41-year-old woman's hair before passers-by used their jackets to quell the fire, a 33-year-old bank analyst who refused to be identified by name told the Post-Intelligencer.

"Her hair was going crazy," he said. "This woman erupted into flames."

Kristen McKie, 35, of Port Orchard, who works downtown, said she was walking alongside and the flames jumped to her left arm and the back of her jacket, scorching some of her hair.

The bank analyst said he and two other men chased the man with the lighter fluid into an alley, cornered him and brought him back to the street, where they turned him over to police.

Neither woman was taken to a hospital, Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick said.

A Zig Zag lighter was recovered, Officer Jeffery R. Kappel said.

There was no apparent motive, he said.

"It was a random act of violence," Kappel said. "He's got no relation to any of the victims."