Man in critical condition after being set on fire in Ballard, police searching for suspect

by: Alison Grande, Jessica Oh Updated:

SEATTLE - Seattle Police Homicide/Assault detectives are looking for Christopher Burrus, 31, who investigators believe set a man on fire in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood Tuesday night. 

Detectives say Burrus poured a flammable liquid on the 39-year-old victim in the 4500 block of Leary Way Northwest before setting him on fire. As of Wednesday afternoon, the victim is in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center. 

KIRO 7 discovered Burrus was arrested by Seattle Police in 2015. Court documents reveal Burrus was the suspect in a bike theft from Alpine Hut, a ski and bicycle shop, in Seattle’s Interbay Neighborhood. 

The owner of Alpine Hut was tipped off the stolen bike, a LaPierre Zezty AM 327 worth $3,500,  was listed on Offer Up.  

He and two employees set up a sting to get it back. They met Burris in the QFC parking lot off Dravus in Interbay to “buy” the bike. They called police and Burrus was arrested. 

When Burrus was arrested with the bike, he had credit cards belonging to other people and several fake IDs, according to court documents. Burrus was charged with three counts of identity theft. The bike was returned to Alpine Hut.

While Burrus was charged, the case was dismissed in August 2017, according to court documents,

“The defendant’s case was not placed back on the court calendar after having his bench warrant quashed and the time for trial has expired.” 

KIRO-7 contacted the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and was told it was a rare administrative error and changes have been made to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

If Burrus had been convicted of the three counts of identity theft he would have faced about three months in jail, according to the prosecutor’s office. He wasn’t charged for felony theft for the stolen bike, because the bicycle was worth less than $5,000. 

Seattle Police are still searching for Burrus and a motive.

A fight may have sparked the confrontation but investigators aren't sure, according to Seattle Police Detective Patrick Michaud.

"We're working to try and figure out exactly what led up to that and why this escalated to the point that it did," he adds. 

A witness extinguished the flames before first responders arrived. Surveillance video from a business across the street shows a flash, followed by flames. 

Duy Tran was driving past Leary Way Tuesday night when he witnessed the fiery attack.

"I look up and all of a sudden, I see a man that was on fire running out of the building and into the street," he said. "Then I saw a guy come around with some kind of extinguisher and hose him down."

Tran cell phone video of the incident shows a man barely standing up as he drives by. Tran says that was the victim right after the flames were extinguished. 

The people who frequent this area of Ballard say petty crimes are common but an attack like this is rare and disturbing. Brett Vondra works next door repairing bicycles. 

"I don't even know how to react, it's just insane," Vondra said. 

Investigators are urging anyone who recognizes Burrus not to approach him because he's potentially dangerous and unpredictable.

 

 


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