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Woman Charged With Arson, Theft In Lansing Walmart Fire

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A woman is facing arson and theft charges, after authorities say she set a fire inside a Walmart store in south suburban Lansing, in an apparent effort to set a diversion to steal from the store.

Heather Weedon is charged with one felony count of aggravated arson and one misdemeanor count of retail theft, and is being held on $850,000 bail, according to Cook County prosecutors. If she is able to post bail, she will be placed on electronic monitoring.

On Jan. 7, police responded to the Walmart store at 176th and Torrence in south suburban Lansing, after at least two fires were set inside the store, causing major damage.

Authorities believe the fires were set as a distraction for shoplifters.

A similar incident happened three days later at a Meijer store in Northwest Indiana, where police said a shoplifter set cotton balls on fire.

It was one of several fires started at once in the store on Jan 10. Authorities said several fires were set on purpose and used as a diversion to steal from the store.

CBS 2's Charlie De Mar spoke with a group of friends who rushed in to stomp one of the fires out.

Shoppers roaming the aisles of the Meijer in Highland, Indiana, were forced to evacuate on the night of Jan. 10 – for those not one, but three fires that appeared to have been intentionally set throughout the grocery store.

Kaelyn Flavin and her two friends, Charlotte Bates and Michael Medina, were in the store for makeup when they heard someone yell, "Fire!"

"There were cotton pads on fire, and everyone's trying to blow on it to get it out. and we all grabbed them, threw them on the ground, and started stomping on it until it went out," Flavin said.

"It was in the cotton ball aisle, so it would have been pretty easy to catch on fire and spread," added Bates.

As store employees and customers rushed to the toy aisle with the Nerf toys and other parts of the store to put out the fires, Highland police said the flames were used as a deliberate distraction for a few people to steal and walk out of the store with merchandise.

Nobody was injured in either fire.

"It's crazy, like, the extremes people go to, to steal stuff," said Medina.

Police in Highland and Lansing were comparing evidence to determine if the same people were responsible for both incidents, but it was unclear if anyone has been arrested or charged in connection with the incident in Highland.

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