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Man charged in Medford Walmart fire

A man faces an arson charge for allegedly setting merchandise on fire inside the south Medford Walmart store.

Mark Iwao Austin Pope, 29, was arrested earlier this week for allegedly setting a fire inside the store with a flare in an effort to help his girlfriend shoplift merchandise from the store, according to documents filed by Medford police in Jackson County Circuit Court.

At 7:41 p.m. Dec. 23, police say, a man wearing a “distinctive” neck gaiter face mask placed a lit flare under a pile of clothes at the store on Center Drive in an attempt to distract employees.

Staff spotted Pope in the store again Monday evening, and called police.

Police say they reviewed photos and store surveillance footage from the fire and determined that Pope was wearing the same clothing and neck gaiter as the suspect in the fire.

Pope allegedly admitted setting the fire during questioning, telling police that he lit the flare as a distraction and didn’t intend to injure anyone.

Pope made his initial court appearance Tuesday on charges of first-degree arson and second-degree theft, court records show.

Pope was in jail Wednesday on the arson and theft charges, along with a charge of heroin possession and on warrants for failing to appear in court on a previous third-degree theft charge and violating his probation on prior heroin possession convictions.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Mark Iwao Austin Pope faces a charge of first-degree arson accusing him of setting merchandise on fire inside the Medford Walmart. Jackson County Jail booking photo.