Owner sets fire to closed sex toy shop, then dies in the blaze, California cops say

Shortly after California police responded to reports of a man carrying a sledgehammer at a closed sex toy shop Sunday night, smoke began to pour from the store, The Mercury News reports.

Firefighters battled the three-alarm blaze at Craze 4 Toys Adult Superstore in downtown San Jose from outside the store, fearing the man might attack them if they entered, KTVU reports.

After dousing the fire, which began at 5:30 p.m., firefighters found a body in the basement, believed to be the man who broke in and set the blaze, KPIX reported.

“We’re operating on the assumption that he started the fire or multiple fires,” said fire Capt. Mitch Matlow, The Mercury News reported. “We’re operating under the assumption that the body we found was the person making the threats.”

The Santa Clara County coroner identified the man Tuesday as Pirtpal Singh, 33, owner of Craze 4 Toys Adult Superstore, The Mercury News reported.

“He was an immigrant and trying to keep his business running,” said Luke McDonald, KGO reported. “He went through a divorce. I think he was having difficulties with a couple things. People trying to shut down his business.”

Before the blaze, the sledgehammer-wielding man had threatened to burn down the building and then broke into the adult novelty shop, KPIX reported.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office says records show the owner of Craze 4 Toys Adult Superstore was served with an eviction notice on Aug. 30, The Mercury News reported. The eviction became final Sept. 5.

Four firefighters were hurt fighting the fire, though firefighters released no details on their injuries, KTVU reported.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.