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Feature Stories

Homeless Man Torches Car; Driver Inside Dies

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 8

Beachcomber – All Rights Reserved

A 63-year-old Long Beach man, Jerry Payne, died Monday at a Torrance hospital after being set on fire inside his car last Friday afternoon.

A 38-year-old homeless man – Raymond Sean Clark – was charged with capital murder on Tuesday afternoon for tossing a flammable substance onto Payne as he sat in his car outside the 7-Eleven store at Pacific Coast Highway and Clark Avenue in Long Beach.

The 5:08 p.m. incident occurred as Beachcomber Publisher Jay Beeler was exiting his nearby offices, observed the black smoke and video recorded the inferno, which was shared with multiple news media outlets nationwide as well as LBPD homicide investigators.

See Beachcomber's copyrighted video here

Payne was sitting in his Toyota 4-Runner at the time and is believed to have declined the transient’s request for money. Both men are black. He suffered third degree burns to his chest and face with his orange T-shirt burned off his body; he was taken to a local hospital by paramedics.

KCBS-TV late Saturday said Payne’s fiance happened upon the crime scene afterward and recognized his car. Payne had an address a few blocks away in the 1400 block of Anaheim Place. He was known to frequent the store and help out the homeless when asked, even to the point of going home for a jacket for a homeless person on a cold night.

Payne was being treated at Torrance Memorial Hospital, which specializes in treating burn patients.

Witness Robert Linkroum of Long Beach said that he went into the store to purchase a newspaper and saw the suspect toss something into the car window and it immediately burst into flames, trapping Linkroum and other patrons inside the 7-Eleven as flames and small explosions engulfed the store’s front entrance. The clerk eventually found a key that allowed them to escape out a back door.

Local attorney Ed Beaulac also witnessed the incident and took a video of the victim lying on the ground after being pulled from the vehicle by two good samaritans. Beaulac quickly took his child home, circled back and found the suspect in nearby Park Estates. He monitored the suspect until police took him into custody.

Maralyn diPiazza of the nearby diPiazza’s Restaurant told the Beachcomber that she has often seen the suspect in the area along with other transients who frequent the 7-Eleven store. Most local retailers said they knew the homeless man to be a military veteran who was always courteous and friendly.

Payne’s green 4-Runner was destroyed in the fire and a white Nissan Altima parked next to it was extensively burned on the driver’s side. The fire also extended into the 7-Eleven store’s eaves before firemen arrived to dose the inferno with water and foam.

Investigators reviewed the 7-Eleven store video and determined that there are several witnesses who have not yet spoken to police. If you witnessed this incident, heard the suspect/victim talking or have information to provide, call Homicide Detectives Scott Lasch or Donald Goodman at (562) 570-7244. Anonymous tips may be submitted by visiting

Clark is being held without bail and will next appear in Los Angeles Superior Court before Judge James Otto on April 23.