A Missouri man pleaded no contest Thursday to setting a fire inside a store at the Westfield Century City mall and pointing a gun at a store employee in what prompted a mass evacuation of the shopping mall last year.
Nicholas Kyle Oates, 27, was immediately sentenced to seven years and four months in state prison following his plea to one count each of arson and assault with a firearm, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Oates went to the children’s section of the Amazon Books store and set books on fire on March 15, 2019, pointed a handgun at an employee who confronted him, then lit additional items on fire, authorities said soon afterward.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore subsequently described it as a situation that “created terror in the minds of hundreds of shoppers.”
Beverly Hills High School, located less than a mile away, was also placed on temporary lockdown as a precaution.
Some shoppers and employees were instructed to shelter in place before being allowed to leave the shopping center several hours later.
Investigators reviewed hours of closed-circuit camera recordings, which led them to identify the suspect and his vehicle, the police chief said.
Oates was arrested the following evening by officers from the LAPD’s Pacific Division assigned to the Venice Beach Task Force, who recognized the suspect sitting at a nearby beach at the Venice boardwalk.
Oates — whom the police chief called a disgruntled former Amazon employee — confessed to his involvement in the arson and assault, according to Moore, who praised police, firefighters and mall staff for their work amid chaos, confusion and inconvenience to the public.
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