Shoplifter charged for allegedly setting store clerk on fire

2 mins read

A Contra Costa County man was accused of pouring lighter fluid on a store clerk and setting the victim on fire. 

The suspect has been charged with mayhem. 

Kendall Lavanon Burton, 38, is facing felonies in connection to the September 22 attack. 

According to court documents, Burton was charged with aggravated mayhem, assault with caustic chemicals, arson causing great bodily injury, and robbery.

The incident happened in El Sobrante at Appian Food & Liquor when the store clerk tried to stop Burton and a second man from shoplifting. 

In the middle of the altercation, Burton threw flammable chemicals at the victim and ignited it using a lighter. 

The store’s surveillance video shows flames igniting and burning the victim’s head. 

The victim, Suraj, suffered severe burns and was rushed to Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco. Suraj’s wife wrote, “My husband encountered a horrific work place incident. He was attacked with kerosene fluid and his body was set on fire by a shoplifter while he was working at his store in El Sobrante.”

Prosecutors charged Burton with mayhem because his actions showed “extreme indifference to the physical and psychological well being of another,” and he “intentionally caused permanent disability and disfigurement,” court documents state.

Suraj was set on fire by a shoplifter. He is still recovering in a hospital. (Image via GoFundMe)

A GoFundMe page was created to help raise money for Suraj’s hospital bills as he continues recovering from burn injuries. “Wounds by the burn takes time to heal and recover and we are overwhelmed by the mental trauma and the pressure of medical procedures,” Suraj’s wife wrote on GoFundMe.

Burton has a criminal history dating back to 2004 with convictions for numerous robberies and burglaries. Court records show Burton racked up convictions in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties.


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.

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