Bay Area Clerk Burned In Convenience Store Attack Is Slowly Recovering

A convenience store cashier was hospitalized after receiving severe burns after a man he was trying to stop from shoplifting set him on fire. Suraj, who did not provide CBS Bay Area with his last name out of fear for his safety, has been hospitalized since he was attacked on Sept. 22.

He has second- and third-degree burns on his face, neck, chest, and shoulder.

He described the event to CBS, saying, “He just splashed lighter fluid on my face, and I was so scared that moment. I tried to cover his hand, but I don’t know. I don’t remember. He just lit the fire on me you know. I just rushed to the restroom, and I just splashed water on my face.”

Suraj also called for more security measures at small stores like the one he was working at, saying: “First of all, I would like to say nobody has to go through this kind of situation, and the small stores should have more security or something like that. The workplace should be safer.”

Kendall Burton, a 38-year-old homeless man, was arrested in El Sobrante and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, battery, arson, and robbery. He is currently being held without bail. 

Suraj’s wife, Sabeena Parajuli, started a fundraiser to help the family pay his medical bills. She has raised more than $30,000.

Parajuli writes, “Right now he is out of danger and getting his treatment in Saint Fransis Memorial Hospital, SF. As wounds by the burn takes time to heal and recover and we are overwhelmed by the mental trauma and the pressure of medical procedures.”

Some commenters, who know Suraj from the trips they made to the store, said he is a kind man, and lamented that such an act was committed against him.

Burton, according to Suraj, is a repeat shoplifter who would usually take lighter fluid from the store. On the day Suraj was attacked, his co-worker made him aware that Burton was stealing again and grabbed a bat. 

According to KVTU, the sheriff’s office was dispatched to the convenience store following a call regarding a shoplifter coming in around 9:00 on Sept 22. The sheriff’s office said in an e-mail to the news station that they booked Burton to the Martinez Detention Facility, and because he also had prior arrest warrants he was being held without bond. Burton has a court date on Oct. 9 and has been assigned a public defender.

Suraj said he was in agonizing pain, telling CBS, “It’s terrible. You know, I’m still in a trauma right now, me, my family,” Suraj says from his bed. “And when we clean the wound, [the pain is] like over 10.” 

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