ADVERTISEMENT

The man accused of starting the fire Thursday that caused as much as $5 million damage to the Target store on Niagara Falls Boulevard returned to the Amherst store on Friday, was arrested and admitted the crime, according to Amherst Police Detective Lt. Rick Walter.

William E. Lattin, 64, of Buffalo, was charged with second-degree arson by Detective Sgt. Daniel Lubick and Detective David Kubiak and is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail, officials said. Lattin has no permanent address and was staying at a local motel before he started the blaze, Walter said.

“Our detectives interviewed witnesses this morning,” Walter said. “Witnesses gave a description of a man acting suspiciously in the area at the time of the fire.”

Upon viewing security footage, Amherst police identified a man who fit the witnesses’ description leaving the store at the time of the fire, Walter said. Police sent the man’s image to Target security.

Lattin returned to the store, which reopened Friday, between 3 and 3:30 p.m., almost exactly 24 hours after the fire occurred and caused between $1 million and $5 million in damage, officials said. Security staffers recognized him and summoned Amherst police, who arrested the suspect.

The suspect admitted setting the blaze in the men’s department during questioning, police said.

“He has an extensive criminal history,” Walter said.

Amherst police declined to speculate on a motive.

Investigators said they believe Lattin set a rack of clothing ablaze. The fire was extinguished in a half-hour with the help of the building’s sprinkler system. Smoke and water caused extensive damage to store contents.

One employee was treated for minor injuries at the scene but was not transported to a hospital.

Lattin was arraigned Friday before Amherst Town Justice Geoffrey Klein, who also ordered him to undergo a forensic evaluation, police said.

email: lhammill@buffnews.com