Deputies arrest suspect in Family Dollar arson

Published: March 5, 2021 9:07 AM EST
Updated: March 5, 2021 4:09 PM EST
Josue Vazquez-Reyes. Credit: Lee County Sheriff's Office

An arrest has been made after a Lehigh Acres Family Dollar store went up in flames.

Josue Vazquez-Reyes, 24, was taken into custody Thursday night on a charge of second-degree arson, suspected in what investigators said was an intentional fire. Detectives from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office say he is a former employee of Family Dollar and that he called 911 to report the fire himself.

The fire occurred on Feb. 26 at the store at 3519 Lee Boulevard.

Vazquez-Reyes had his first appearance in court on Friday. A judge set bail at $50,000, arrest records show.

The battalion chief who responded to the fire said the 911 call got him thinking it could be arson. The caller didn’t wait for first responders to arrive.

Neighbors say the loss of the store is proving to be a hardship for them. Family Dollar is not ready to say whether the store will be rebuilt.

Tina Heckler lives near the store. She said Vazquez-Reyes, a former manager, didn’t leave on his own terms.

The fire ripped through the roof of the Family Dollar.

“It was pretty wild,” Heckler said.

Investigators say Vazquez-Reyes was a suspect in an internal theft investigation who abruptly resigned two weeks before the fire.

“If you get fired and then throw everything on fire. I mean, that’s retaliation,” said Wilson Cortez, who lives near the store.
With the store gone, the community surrounding it has lost easy access to supplies.
“We need it, we need it over here,” Cortez said. “The people here, we need a place that we can go and get things, we don’t have to be driving.”