Man tries to set himself on fire during Gaston Co. police chase following arson

Micah Smith | WBTV
Micah Smith | WBTV

BESSEMER CITY, NC (WBTV) - An overnight police chase in Gaston County ended when a man tried to set himself and his car on fire Thursday morning.

According to Gaston County police, the man's car matched the description of a vehicle that was wanted in connection to a mobile home fire that occurred on Landau Circle Wednesday night. Police said a domestic situation occurred at the home and then Christopher Brannon Watkins, 26, reportedly set the home on fire.

Watkins fled the scene before officials arrived. No one was home when the fire occurred.

When an officer spotted the vehicle and attempted to pull Watkins over, he refused and lead officers on a chase, police said. Officers say they followed Watkins for nearly five miles until the he slowed down on Bessemer City Road in Gastonia.

"The suspect doused himself with some type of chemical accelerant and attempted to light himself on fire," said Gaston County Police Sergeant JT Avery.

According to Avery, even though the car caught fire, officers were able to grab Watkins and take him to safety before he was harmed.

Watkins was charged with fraudulent burning of a dwelling home, burning personal property and felony fleeing to elude arrest. Avery said he will also be charged with several other traffic related charges.

Watkins was taken to the Gaston County Jail and placed on a $100,000 secured bond.

Police said Watkins was not injured.

If you have any information, you can call Crime Stoppers at 704-861-8000.

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