Man Charged With Setting Fire in Store at Mall, Pointing Gun at Employee

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Felony charges were filed today against a 25-year- old Missouri man accused of setting a fire inside the Amazon store at Westfield Century City and pointing a gun at a store employee, prompting a mass evacuation of the shopping mall last Friday.

Nicholas K. Oates, who was arrested on Saturday in Venice, pleaded not guilty to six counts of arson and one count each of assault with a firearm and burglary.

Oates allegedly went to the children's section of the Amazon store last Friday and set books on fire. He pulled a handgun on a store employee who confronted him and then lit additional items on fire before fleeing the scene, prosecutors allege.

Police and firefighters, and later a bomb squad, responded about 12:40 p.m. to a report of a man with a gun and a suspicious package inside the Amazon store, triggering an evacuation of the upscale shopping center and the temporary lockdown of offices and businesses near the mall.

Some shoppers and employees were instructed to shelter in place before being allowed to leave the shopping center several hours later.

Police reported about 6 p.m. that the item was not explosive and the evacuation was over.

Oates was arrested about 8 p.m. Saturday by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division assigned to the Venice Beach Task Force. They recognized the suspect sitting at a nearby beach at the Venice boardwalk and took him into custody.

If convicted as charged, he could face up to 21 years in state prison, according to the District Attorney's Office.

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