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‘Practicing witchcraft’ leads to arson arrest

A transient who has been arrested or cited at least 40 times in the Las Vegas Valley in the last eight years is now charged with first-degree arson after police say he started a fire at a northeast valley department store while “practicing witchcraft.”

Bruno Niedrauer, 33, was arrested Sunday after a fire broke out at Kohl’s, 1300 S. Nellis Blvd., near East Charleston Boulevard. Las Vegas police said in an arrest report that police and Clark County firefighters were called to the store at 2:30 p.m. for a blaze in a large trash compactor connected to the store. There were customers and employees in the store at the time.

A store employee said the person who started the fire was seen walking away from the scene in the direction of a nearby pedestrian bridge. Police said an officer and the employee headed that way, then found Niedrauer at a small camp made out of wooden boards. The store employee identified Niedrauer as the fire starter, police said. Niedrauer, according to police, told the officer he “had a fire and it got out of control.”

“Bruno said he lit (a) notebook on fire … (so) he could draw a flame from the notebook in order to practice witchcraft,” police wrote in the report.

Niedrauer told police he threw the burning notebook on the ground outside the store, but the flames spread to some trash. He fled the scene when he couldn’t put the fire out.

“As the fire grew larger, Bruno left the area in fear he would be in trouble for starting the fire,” police said.

Las Vegas Justice Court records show dozens of arrests or citations for Niedrauer since 2013 in the Las Vegas Valley. Charges included vagrancy, trespassing, resisting a public officer, lewd conduct and battery on a protected person. The vast majority of those cases were either dismissed or rejected for prosecution.

He was scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning on the arson count. He remains in custody at the Clark County Detention Center.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at g[puit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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