Prosecutors: Man set fire to Loop store counter after employee asked him to put on COVID mask

Edmund Long and the 7-Eleven at 128 North LaSalle | CPD; Google

A man with a history of violent random attacks in the Loop was charged Tuesday with aggravated arson after allegedly setting fire to a convenience store counter and then throwing a hand sanitizer display into the flames. Prosecutors said the incident started when a store clerk asked him to put on a face mask. No injuries were reported.

“They’re just random acts of violence against random people,” Judge Charles Beach said in summarizing the allegations and the man’s criminal history.

Around 11:15 a.m. Sunday, the store clerk asked Edmund Long to cover his face or step out of the store until it was properly covered after he walked into the 7-Eleven at 128 North LaSalle, Assistant State’s Attorney Jocelyn Schieve said. The store is located directly across the street from City Hall.

Long, 43, then allegedly took something out of a bag he was carrying, squirted it on the store’s counter, and set it ablaze. He then picked up a hand sanitizer display and threw it through the plexiglass partition, causing the fire to spread onto the cashier’s side of the counter and the register, according to Schieve. Store surveillance cameras recorded the incident.

Several customers saw the events unfold, Schieve said, but Long was gone by the time police and firefighters arrived.

About two hours later, the clerk — who had never seen Long before — was still working when he returned and threw an object through the store’s plate-glass window, Schieve said. Long remained at the scene long enough for police to take him into custody.

The store’s manager estimated the cost to repair the day’s damage at $5,000.

Schieve said Long completed parole in October after serving four years for randomly attacking a stranger in the Loop. A good Samaritan who was carrying a 15-month-old baby intervened in that attack and Long beat that adult in the face and body, too, according to Schieve. Both victims reportedly suffered concussions.

In 2013, he received two concurrent three-year prison terms for theft and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm after he jumped behind the counter of a different 7-Eleven in the Loop and punched the clerk in the face. That victim suffered a broken orbital bone.

And in 2010, he beat the clerk of yet another Loop convenience store and took containers of cigarettes. He pleaded guilty to robbery, failed to meet the terms of a probation sentence, and was then given a three-year prison term.

On Tuesday, prosecutors charged Long with aggravated arson, felony criminal damage to property, and simple assault.

Long’s defense attorney said he might have mental health conditions that fuel his behavior.

But Judge Beach, noting the randomness and violent nature of Long’s criminal history, ordered him held without bail.

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