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NC suspect who set himself on fire is charged with burning personal property

The car involved in the chase that resulted in suspect trying to set himself on fire.
The car involved in the chase that resulted in suspect trying to set himself on fire.

A Gaston County man who tried burning himself alive in his car during a police chase was charged Thursday with burning personal property.

Investigators say Christopher Brannon Watkins, 26, of Dallas not only tried to set himself and his car on fire, but he set fire to a mobile home on Sept. 20 in the Dallas area of Gaston County.

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Christopher Brannon Watkins Gaston County Jail

He was in the Gaston County Jail early Thursday on a $100,000 bond, charged with fraudulent burning of a home, burning personal property (his car) and felony flee to elude police.

Watkins was arrested about 2 a.m. Thursday after Gaston County Police tried to pull over a vehicle wanted in connection with the mobile home fire. Officers chased Watkins’ car nearly five miles, to the intersection of Bessemer City Road and Myrtle Avenue. There, he tried setting his car on fire while still in it.

“The suspect doused himself with some type of chemical accelerant and attempted to light himself on fire,” said Gaston County Police Sergeant JT Avery told the Observer’s news partner WBTV.

According to Avery, even though the car caught fire, officers were able to grab Watkins and take him to safety before he was harmed, WBTV reported.

Investigators say no one was inside the mobile home that Watkins is accused of setting on fire. The Lincoln Herald reported Watkins’ spouse had collected belongings and her children and left the home prior to the fire.

Anyone with additional information on the incident is asked to contact the Gaston County Police Department at 704-866-3320 or Crimestoppers at (704) 861-8000

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