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Police: No signs fiery attack inside Reading sandwich shop was provoked

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: May 01 2013 01:48:28 PM CDT
Updated On: May 02 2013 05:25:33 AM CDT

Police hope surveillance video will help them identify a suspect in the fiery attack of a man inside a sandwich shop in Reading.

READING, Pa. -

A sandwich shop worker in Reading is fighting to stay alive after he was intentionally set on fire.

Joel Fontanez is in a medically-induced coma with second and third degree burns to his face and chest, said police.

Investigators said they have no leads. They're trying to determine if this was a random attack or if the victim was targeted.

"I even whispered into his ear, 'Who could have done this?'" said Jazmin Candelario, the victim's girlfriend.

Candelario has been in and out of the hospital while her boyfriend fights for his life. Forty-five to 50 percent of Fontanez's body is burned. He can't talk, and his face is unrecognizable, said Candelario.

"It doesn't look like him. He's so swollen, it doesn't even look like him," she said.

Jazmin was still shaken Wednesday. She wants to know who would intentionally set her boyfriend on fire.

It happened around 8 p.m. Tuesday inside Citi Sub & Grocery Store at South 10th and Cotton streets in Reading.

A black man in his early to mid-20s reportedly asked Fontanez for an item, then doused him with gasoline, said police.

"This dude comes out and he's fully ablaze. He's on fire and I was scared to look at him directly. I didn't want to see his flesh burning off. It was intense," said Peter Jenkins, who was sitting on the store's steps at the time of the attack.

Doc Holyday had the scars to prove the intensity of the flames. He was shopping in the store when he saw the ball of fire. Doc ripped off his sweatshirt and tackled Fontanez to the ground.

"His complete upper body was in flames, they weren't going out easily, I don't think it was a normal fire," said Holyday.

"I want justice to be served, I want whoever it is taken into custody," said Candelario.

The inside of the shop smelled of fire Wednesday, and burnt trash and paper littered the floor. The store remained closed Wednesday, but the owner was accessing the damage. Like Candelario, he could not imagine who would do this.

"He's a very good kid, he has no problem with anybody," said Balbir Chandhok, who has owned the store for about 20 years.

Police are trying to collect and review surveillance video from the area.