Former store employee charged in Molotov cocktail incident

ALGONQUIN – Chrisann Herda was holding her almost 2-year-old daughter, waiting for her number to be called at the deli when she heard an explosion.

"I heard the shattering of glass and then a big whoosh," Herda said. "I was about 10 feet away, and my daughter is screaming like I never heard her scream before."

Fabian J. Torres, 24, is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail into a group of people near the deli at Joe Caputo & Sons Fruit Market in Algonquin on Sunday. His bond has been set at $2 million.

Algonquin police said Torres, 24, is a former employee of the grocery store, but Deputy Chief Steve Kuzynowski declined to comment on a possible motive. Initial police reports indicated that Torres is from Sleepy Hollow, but he wrote on an application for a public defender, which was granted, that he was homeless.

Torres also said he owns a Kia Sephia, the same type of vehicle which police had taped off in the store's parking lot following the incident.

About 12:20 p.m. police and fire department officials were dispatched to the store at 100 S. Randall Road.

According to the criminal complaint in which Torres is charged with aggravated arson, Torres committed an arson knowing that a woman was present.

McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Bill Stanton, however, said there was no prior relationship between the woman named in the complaint and Torres. Stanton said she was there handing out samples.

At least one man was injured but treated and released at the scene.

Herda said that there were about 50 people standing around the deli area at the time, and that it was the most crowded part of the store.

She didn't see anyone throw anything, and like others, assumed something caught fire. She left, but then came back in after the fire was extinguished.

"I saw what looked like a little white sock," Herda said. "They had already swept all the debris into a little pile."

Firefighters arrived and rushed everyone out, and only then did Herda learn about the Molotov cocktail. She started talking to a man in the crowd who allegedly saw Torres throw the device before turning and running.

As Torres fled the store, he was chased but a shopper and eventually caught with the help of an off-duty Carpentersville police officer.

"Once I realized it wasn't just a fire, my mind when from something so innocent to fear," Herda said. "I wouldn't have gone back in the store."

Herda said she thought additional charges, perhaps even attempted murder, would be appropriate. There were a lot of families there with kids at the time, she said.

"That's intent to harm or maim or kill," she said. "It's not just arson, creeping up to an abandoned building in the middle of the night."

She had to leave all her groceries behind, so Herda went back on Monday knowing that Torres had been arrested.

In the parking lot, she said her daughter, Amelia, put her hands out in front of her and said, "Fire, hot."

Kuzynowski of the Algonquin Police Department said Torres spoke with investigators, but he declined to comment further.

"I'm not going to comment as far as why he did this when we have a pending trial," Kuzynowski said.

A manager at Joe Caputo & Sons also declined to comment, but said that the store opened at its regular time on Monday.

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