published Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Arson ruled in Cleveland, Tenn., gas station fire

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    Cleveland authorities investigate a fatal fire Tuesday at a BP gas station near Paul Huff Parkway and Interstate 75 in Cleveland, Tenn. Staff Photo by Beth Burger

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Police in Cleveland, Tenn., say the Tuesday morning fire at a BP gas station is arson after an employee of the store torched the business and chose not to leave, according to a news release.

Randy Lee Hammontree, of Cleveland, died of smoke inhalation, according to a medical examiner's report, Cleveland Police Department Officer Evie West said in a statement.

Evidence collected at the scene, along with footage from the store's surveillance system, showed Hammontree was alone inside the business at 942 Paul Huff Parkway when the blaze started, according to police.

The video shows Hammontree deliberately setting the fire in the center of the store, authorities said.

Police and Cleveland Fire Department firefighters responded to the convenience store just before 5 a.m. Tuesday after it already was engulfed in flames.

Once firefighters extinguished the blaze, which charred the inside of the store, they saw Hammontree's body inside.

A toxicology report on the body, which could take up to six weeks, is pending, West said.

Hammontree worked Monday night, closing the store at 11 p.m., according to store personnel. He was not scheduled to work Tuesday morning when the store would open at 6 a.m.

No one at BP's corporate headquarters could be reached Friday for comment.

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