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Suspected arsonist caught on video at Sunset District store

Newly obtained security footage from an early morning fire that devastated an immigrant-owned business in the Sunset District shows a man walking around the store under the cover of darkness with a lit lighter in his hand.

The suspected arson severely damaged the more than three-decade old Dragon Printing shop at 450 Taraval St. last Wednesday, putting the future of the mom and pop business in jeopardy during a pandemic.

“Things have just been really hard because of the virus already,” said Maggie Chan, a longtime family friend of the owners. “They are not even sure if they are going to continue.”

The Wong family opened the business nearly 35 years ago after immigrating from Hong Kong, according to Chan. The store provides printing as well as shipping and handling services.

Chan said the owners initially understood the fire may have been caused by a faulty outlet, but later learned of its more nefarious origins after checking surveillance footage from inside the store to determine the size of the blaze.

The footage showed an unidentified man holding up the flame of a lighter to paper boxes and fiddling with the security camera. However, the camera did not capture him setting the fire.

Photos of the aftermath show stacks of charred and water-logged reams of paper and fire-warped furniture.

Charred reams of paper at Dragon Printing (Courtesy Maggie Chan)

A police spokesperson confirmed that the incident is being investigated by the Arson Unit and Burglary Detail.

Arson investigators arrived at the scene after firefighters and police responded to the blaze at 1:50 a.m. and extinguished the fire.

“A representative from the business later arrived on scene and, after conducting a walkthrough of the business, determined that U.S. currency was missing from a cash register,” police said.

Police had not made an arrest as of Monday.

Chan said the family did not recognize the man in the video or want to talk about the fire publicly.

“They’re just happy no one was hurt,” Chan said, noting that tenants live upstairs.

A still of the suspected arsonist at Dragon Printing (Courtesy Maggie Chan)

A GoFundMe page has been started to fundraise for the family.

“This store was the lifeblood of a hard-working Asian immigrant family that did their best to provide printing, copying, and mailing services all these years and especially during this pandemic,” the page reads. “The store has remained open for over three decades and is now in jeopardy of having to close.”

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Michael Barba

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