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Police say fires were started at the Meijer store in Highland, Indiana, as a distraction from shoplifters;  A similar incident happened at Lansing Walmart

HIGHLAND, Indiana (CBS) – Burnt cotton balls were left behind after police said a shoplifter set them on fire at a Meijer store in northwest Indiana this week.

It was one of several fires that started in the store at the same time.

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The Meijer, in Highland, Indiana, was reopened on Tuesday after authorities said several fires were intentionally started and used as a diversion to rob the store.

CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar spoke on Tuesday night with a group of friends who rushed to put out one of the fires.

Shoppers wandering the aisles of the Meijer in Highland, Indiana were forced to evacuate Monday night – for those not one, but three fires that appeared to have been intentionally started in the grocery store.

Kaelyn Flavin and her two friends, Charlotte Bates and Michael Medina, were in the store putting on makeup when they heard someone scream, “Fire!

“There were cottons on fire, and everyone is trying to blow on them to get them out. and we all grabbed them, threw them on the ground and started stomping on him until he died, ”Flavin said.

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“It was in the cotton ball alley, so it would have been pretty easy to catch fire and spread,” Bates added.

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

On Friday, there was an almost identical incident at the Walmart in the southern suburb of Lansing, about six miles from Highland.

Two fires were started inside the store, causing extensive damage. Arson is believed to be the cause.

No one was injured in the two fires.

“It’s crazy, like the extremes that people go to, to steal stuff,” Medina said.

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Highland Police are working to connect the dots and said Tuesday evening they were working with Lansing Police and comparing evidence to determine whether the same people were responsible.


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