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San Francisco police search for arsonist who lit 2 Teslas on fire in SoMa Saturday

Tesla arsonist in San Francisco caught on camera
Tesla arsonist in San Francisco caught on camera 03:43

Police in San Francisco are investigating the burning of two Teslas early Saturday morning as arson, according to authorities.

A surveillance camera captured a person setting a Tesla on fire over the weekend. Firefighters said it was one of two Tesla Model Y's that burned down on the same night one block apart in the city's SoMa District.

Camera footage showed the arsonist setting papers on top of the front passenger tire of a 2020 white Tesla Model Y. He then used a lighter to burn the papers and walked away. Several minutes later, the front portion of the Tesla was engulfed in flames.

That arson happened on Saturday morning at around 12:45 a.m. near the intersection of Shipley and 4th Streets.

Nine hours later, Van Vuong walked by his own Tesla not knowing it was his.

"We were going to go get in the car to go play some tennis.  First thing I noticed was that, 'Hey, someone burned a car.'  And we just kind of walked by it and I thought 'Shoot, where's my car?' And I thought 'No, that can't be my car.' And then I kind of looked around at the parts that were here, the license plate was here.  And it was white color. And I was like, 'Oh my God, my car is gone!'" recalled Vuong.

The heat melted the back of a red Hyundai sedan parked in front of the Tesla and charred a nearby tree.

About 30 minutes earlier on the same night, one block away near the intersection of Bonifacio and Mabini Streets, flames also destroyed another Tesla Model Y.

"I smelled something and then I woke up. I see this red smoke. And then I opened the window and looked at it and said 'My God!'" said Joanne Baker.

Baker and her husband immediately called 911. She said firefighters responded very quickly, but the Model Y was destroyed.

"I can't believe it's random. And that's what's scary. Why would they go after those cars?" asked neighbor Vikki Hart.  

"It's an electric car. And they know that electric cars have big battery fires. So that's probably why they did that," said Vuong.

That's one theory. Police said only the arsonist can explain why.

In the surveillance footage, the arsonist appeared to be a man wearing a hoodie or a beanie. He carried a few bags.  CBS News San Francisco showed Vuong the surveillance video. He didn't recognize the arsonist.

"I think it's random. Sad and disappointed that there's such bad guys out there," said Vuong.

Vuong drove his Tesla from Seattle to visit his two sons. They're studying at a San Francisco dental school.  He'll rent a car to drive back to Seattle.

"I hear [San Francisco is] beautiful and it's ugly. And we've got hit by the ugly," said Vuong.

Some Telsa owners in the neighorhood said they're going to pay for garage parking until the person is caught.

SFPD investigators are asking for the public's help to identify the arsonist.

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