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Man charged with arson at three Chicago stores, damaging $1 million in clothes

A Lake View Walgreens was one of three stores where a man is accused of setting a fire in the span of three weeks. | Google Earth

A man damaged $1 million worth of clothes in one of three fires he set at stores in the span of three weeks on the North and Northwest Sides, according to Cook County prosecutors.

Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. denied bail Sunday for Lavale Miller, 38, as he faces three felony counts of aggravated arson.

Miller, a convicted arsonist, is accused of using a lighter to start the fires at a clothing store in Avondale, a Walmart in Hermosa and a Walgreens in Lake View, prosecutors said at his initial court hearing Sunday.

Lavale Miller | Chicago Police
Lavale Miller | Chicago Police

On May 30, an employee and customer at Discovery Clothing, 3348 W. Belmont Ave., weren’t able to put out the fire, causing the store to be evacuated, prosecutors said. There were no injuries, but $1 million worth of clothes were estimated to be damaged.

Miller then went on the night of June 11 to the Walmart at 4650 W. North Ave., where his public benefits card was declined when he tried to buy a bag of M&M’s candy, prosecutors said. He then took a lighter to items in the women’s clothing section, according to prosecutors. Customers put out that fire.

Though nobody saw Miller set that blaze, surveillance video shows him reach his hand toward the area where the fire started, prosecutors said. An arson detective determined an open flame caused the fire.

The evening of June 19, Miller walked into the Walgreens at 1001 W. Belmont, and flashed his middle fingers to a surveillance camera, prosecutors said. He unsuccessfully tried to start a fire in one aisle, so he went to the paper goods aisle and set one there, prosecutors said.

Officers arrested Miller three days later at another Walmart at 137 W. North Ave., a Chicago Police arrest report shows. He had a light-blue “Bic” brand lighter with him, the report says.

In 2015, Miller was convicted of setting a fire inside a men’s restroom at the Loop campus of Roosevelt University, prosecutors said as they asked the judge to deny bail.

Miller, who is homeless, will remain jailed until his next court appearance on Friday.