SAN FERNANDO — Police are trying to determine whether a 45-year-old Pacoima man who died after he was found burning in a convenience store parking lot was the victim of an accident or if someone deliberately set him afire.
"We are investigating both possibilities--that it was a self-inflicted accident and that it was at the hands of another," said San Fernando Police Lt. Rico Castro.
Detectives are interviewing relatives of the dead man, Luciano Lugo Olmeda, and witnesses who were in the parking lot when the incident occurred, Castro said.
Police are still searching for four youths who witnesses saw driving away from the parking lot in a small gray car at the time, Castro said.
"From witness accounts, it looked like they might have been laughing as they left the parking lot," Castro said. "We don't know if they were laughing at [the victim] or if they coincidentally were driving away and having a good time."
Olmeda was very intoxicated at 3:45 a.m. Sunday, when he ran from behind a 7-Eleven store on Glenoaks Boulevard with his shirt on fire, Castro said.
Based on interviews with Olmeda's sister and niece, "there are indications that it was not unusual to hear that he was drunk," a police spokesman said.
Olmeda had moved from Los Angeles to Pacoima two months ago, he said. Police believe he was unemployed, though not a transient as authorities had originally speculated, the spokesman said.
A lighter was found in Olmeda's pocket, though detectives have not yet determined if it was the cause of the fire.
Olmeda suffered third-degree burns on nearly half of his body, and died Sunday evening at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.