Victim: Attempted arson by neighbor ‘shattered soul, sense of safety'

Jason G. John | Cook County Sheriff's Dept.

A northwest suburban woman whose neighbor is accused of attempting to set her home on fire says the incident has “shattered her soul” and her family’s “sense of safety.”

And as for the night of the incident?

She mainly recalls a “ball of fire, a crazy ball of flames” on the side of her home.

The incident happened about 10:30 p.m. in the 1000 block of Rose Avenue in Des Plaines, according to Des Plaines police.

The victim, who asked not to be named, said her three kids were preparing for bed and her husband was sitting in the living room, just inside from where the fire was started.

“He poured gasoline all over the gas meter and made a trail of gas in the grass. Then he ignited it. He wanted to kill us. But I guess he didn’t want to hurt himself.”

She said her husband “was out of the house in about two seconds” because he heard the gas ignite and could feel the heat on the wall.

He and a neighbor then used a garden hose on the fire until firefighters arrived.

The Des Plaines Fire Departments quickly put out the rest of the flames, which damaged the meter, the siding of the home and the yard, according to police.

The homeowner identified the suspect who “poured gas on the front lawn and near the home’s gas meter and set it on fire,” police said.

The victim said she stills smells gas outside the home, and the utility company is going to replace the meter sometime in the next few days.

A search warrant was issued for the home of Jason G. John, and “evidence of the crime was recovered,” police said, adding the “offender appeared to be intoxicated.”

Officers later arrested the 36-year-old John, who lived about five homes away, and he was charged with aggravated arson, police said. He remains in the Cook County Jail, held without bond.

The police said the incident appeared to stem from some type of argument between the neighbors, saying at the time that “several weeks prior to this incident occurring, the offender and the victim were involved in a verbal dispute.”

But the victim says that is just not true.

“There was no argument, no anything,” she said. “We are well-liked in the community, and to find out it was him was … we never had any problem with him. Our kids played together and not too long ago he gave me some clothes that no longer fit his daughter. He just waved at me driving past a couple days earlier.”

“Whatever demons he had, I will never know,” she said.

It’s not the first time those demons had come out, the woman said. “He’s had past arrests and incidents with SWAT units.”

Court records show that John was arrested on Aug. 16, 2016, following a nearly-seven-hour standoff with police, who said he was intoxicated and had a gun. He finally came out when SWAT units threw in gas grenades, police said at the time.

John was charged with unauthorized use of a weapon in connection, a case that is still pending. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

His next hearing on the arson case is scheduled for Sept. 15 in Skokie.

John has lived in the neighborhood for about 15 years, according to the arson victim, who has lived in the neighborhood, in her family home, for nearly 50 years.

“Our kids grew up together. We always got along and were nice to each other. I don’t know what to think, or what to feel,” she said. “If someone you’ve known so long, a neighbor, can do something like that, try to kill you, it shatters your soul.”

“It shatters your sense of safety. He is in jail now, but I won’t know how to feel when he gets out. I will never feel safe again,” she said.