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Toronto police release video of man connected to midtown car fires

Toronto police have released security camera footage of a person they say may be connected to a spate of car fires near Bayview and Moore avenues early Friday morning.

Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the “person of interest” who they say is a 20- to 30-year-old man who has a “unique walk.”

“It’s not a slow walk — it’s someone with purpose but dynamic, energetic,” Det.-Sgt. Daniel Sabadics said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

“He is seen coming up the driveway, walking back on to the street, looping around and coming back on the other side of the sidewalk,” he said. The man also walked up the cul-de-sac and then turns back. He was wearing a dark knapsack, dark pants, a shirt and a ball cap. He was also holding what appears to be a cup or bottle in his left hand.

Sabadics said the video footage was captured in the neighbourhood at 2:43 a.m., just before police were called to the area of the car fires.

Emergency crews were first called to Moore, west of Bayview, at 3:05 a.m. on May 9 and found several car fires.

Police said 12 vehicles and a garage on Burnham Road were torched. The residents got out unharmed.

All of the targeted cars and the garage had been left unlocked, and the suspect lit paper or clothes on fire without using an accelerant.

Residents in the area were asked to check their cars for damage and to review security footage from their homes.

Police said they are continuing to work with Ontario Fire Marshal’s office and have canvassed the neighbourhood over the past four days.

Sabadics reiterated that they are continuing to investigate a robbery at a local convenience store that occurred around the same time and could be linked. On Wednesday, he said the alarm at the store went off at 3:15 a.m.

Police are still advising the public to secure their vehicles and premises, and to report any fires, including grass and garbage fires.

“Right now, I am treating it as an arsonist — not all of them are. Sometimes, there’s instances where it’s just up to no good, fooling around … not being diagnosed as a pyromaniac,” Sabadics said.

“However, in those instances, in speaking with the task force, those are usually one or two or three, not the scope that we’ve seen here … we have 12, all in a very small period of time and very restrictive geographic location. So I leaning more toward [that] this is an arsonist.”

At least six of the cars are write-offs and the others had smoke damage.

In one case, an umbrella in the backseat of a car was set on fire, Toronto Fire said. The umbrella melted and produced a thick smoke which blackened the car windows.

In the aftermath, police found a car with a can of beer and a box of matches inside of it.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-5300, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637).

Police are also asking the man who was in the area to come forward and contact police.

With files from Patricia D’Cunha and Erin Criger