Bible College Student Confesses to Store Arson

Matt O'Conner
NORTH KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For months, police and fire officials were stymied in their investigation to identify the suspect in an arson case involving a man dressed as a ninja who torched a 24-hour adult book and video store.

“We don’t know who he is or why he did it,” Knox County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Martha Dooley told XBIZ in February.

But it appears the mystery finally has been solved after Benjamin Warren, a student at a Crown College of the Bible, confessed to setting the fire.

Warren reportedly told police that he burned down the store to serve God. But the president of the school, a fundamental Baptist college and seminary of about 900 students in Knoxville, heard rumors that Warren was involved and convinced him to fess up.

Warren now says he knows what he did was wrong, but that’s little consolation to the owner of Town and Country adult store, who says the store sustained nearly $1 million in damage.

The incident occurred at about 4 a.m. on Jan. 31. Dooley said a clerk working at the Town and Country Book Den spotted a man in the parking lot pouring gasoline from a fuel can onto the store. According to Dooley, the clerk went outside to confront the man and discovered he was wearing a ninja-style mask and brandishing a rifle.

“The suspect asked the clerk if there were any other people inside,” Dooley said. “The clerk said there were not, and the man told him he needed to leave immediately.”

The clerk ran to a nearby convenience store and called 911, but by the time fire trucks arrived on the scene, the fire had already destroyed a portion of the building.

Knox County Fire Department Captain Jeff Devlin said the store's interior was heavily damaged and much of its inventory lost.

Warren waived a preliminary hearing this week. The case will now go to a grand jury.