Arson suspected in Palmetto car dealership fire

- Smoke and flames filled downtown Palmetto, from a fire so big it could be seen in Bradenton. 

Now officials are asking who would deliberately set fire to part of a car dealership? The answer could come from images of a man captured by the business' surveillance cameras.

"It's a sad thing that someone has to resort to this type of thing," said Ben Shives.

Ben Shives owns Auto Dealer Solutions on 8th Ave West in Palmetto. He learned around 7 Friday morning his business was set on fire. Officers with the Palmetto Police Department released a picture of a possible suspect.

"It's what makes a living for not only our family but several other people that work here so it definitely effects us all," he said.

Shives said the suspect broke into the body shop area. From there he entered an old church on the property, now used to store tires and other car parts. That's where the fire broke out. Then the suspect used a hammer to break into the main building.

"Once the alarm went off it looks like they ransacked a couple of things real quick tried to look for something and then ran," said Shives.

Firefighters with the North River Fire District worked with Bradenton Fire to keep the fire contained. It eventually spread to a nearby boat.

"In Palmetto here we have a lot of confined congested area so keeping that fire to that building was a big deal. It is a big loss through. It is a big historical building here in the city we hate to see it go," said Captain Joe Sicking.

Meanwhile Shives is hopeful the suspect will be identified and arrested.

"We have blood splatter where he got cut on one of the doors breaking into it so we got that," he said.

Shives is counting his blessings in knowing nothing major was taken and no one was injured.

"We will come out better and stronger because of this and it'll pull us together and make us better," he said. 

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