Man Jailed After Gas Station Clerk Robbed, Burned

Suspect charged with attempted capital murder

A Garland man is charged with attempted capital murder in connection with a robbery in which a store clerk was intentionally set on fire Sunday morning.

Nancy Harris, 76, is in critical condition at Parkland Hospital's burn unit with burns covering 40 percent of her body.

A police statement said the clerk at a Fina station in the 3300 block of Broadway Boulevard in Garland was attacked at about 7 a.m.

Two Garland officers across the street saw a flash inside the station, drove to the station and saw a woman with the upper half of her body ablaze.

"This is just one of those horrible, horrid things that sometimes happens to people that we simply don't understand," police spokesman Officer Joe Harn said.

One of the officers grabbed the fire extinguisher from his car and began spraying her to put out the fire. After the fire was extinguished, Harris told officers she'd been robbed, doused with a liquid and set on fire.

"Sometimes we will see victims that have been burned, but this lady was still on fire when the officers got there," Harn said.

Harris was able to give police a basic description of her attacker before she was taken to the hospital.

A short time after rescuing Harris, police received reports of a man matching the description she gave breaking into houses near the gas station.

Officers found Matthew Lee Johnson, 36, of Garland. He has been charged with criminal attempted capital murder and is being held on a $500,000 bond.

Well-wishers stopped stopped by the gas station to leave money and show support Harris, a grandmother and widow who has worked at the store for more than 10 years.

"I will be praying for her, and I wish the best for her to come out of this," neighbor Vickie Emerson said.

"When I heard what happened to her, it was just like it was one of my family -- it was devastating. I wanted to cry," customer Jim Bertucci said.

Customers said they have come to know and love Harris. The only thing she loves more than her grandchildren and her customers are the Dallas Cowboys, they said.

Harris normally works Sundays but takes the day off when the Cowboys are playing, customers said.

"When those Cowboys play, she is right there," close friend Linda White said. "Cowboys and her grandchildren -- that is who she lived for."

People in her neighborhood say they call Harris "Grandma."

"She's everyone's Grandma," said Timothy White, who has known Harris for more than a decade.

"You don't expect somebody to set somebody's grandma on fire, and that's what she was to us -- just the neighborhood grandma," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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