Young Girl Killed After Man Sets Van on Fire While Cooking in Parking Lot: Reports

August 14, 2019 Updated: August 14, 2019

A 6-year-old Minnesota girl died and her sister was injured after a man set his van on fire while cooking inside a Walmart parking lot.

KARE11 reported that Roberto L. Hipolito, 70, was cooking on a portable stove on the morning of Aug. 6 in a van at a Walmart in Fridley. His van caught fire after cooking, which spread to the van where 6-year-old Ty’rah White and 9-year-old Taraji White were sleeping inside.

“My daughter Taraji, she’s fighting still,” Essie McKenzie told the outlet. “She’s fighting real hard.”

McKenzie said that she let her daughters sleep inside the van after going shopping at Walmart at 7 a.m. after they had awoken to drop McKenzie’s son and her mother off at the airport.

Police said that Hipolito’s van was parked next to their van. He was cooking something and placed the stove in the back of his van, and it apparently hadn’t cooled properly.

The flames of the van caught the Dodge Caravan, which housed the sleeping girls, on fire, officials said.

Hipolito was charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of negligent fire, the report said.

“I know that there’s a lot of people that are being negative towards my sister, like ‘why would she leave the kids in the car?’ and that type of stuff,” Essie’s sister, Alexis McKenzie told the outlet. “But at the end of the day, she’s a single mother who is raising three kids by herself with no help. None at all.”

“It could happen to anybody. That could have been anybody,” McKenzie continued. “They wasn’t babies in that car. It was big kids. ‘Cause if they was alive and if they had seen what was going on, I bet my last dollar the girls would have got out of the car on their own.”

McKenzie told KTSP that her deceased daughter was “full of life and love.”

“She was so mature for her age, she was only six years old but she knew so much, she taught me a lot of things in her six years she’s been here on this earth,” the mother said.

She said she is focusing on her 9-year-old daughter’s recovery.

“I was always a praying mother, you know, I’m trying to keep that same routine to keep my spirits up,” she said.

Facts About Crime in the United States

Violent crime in the United States has fallen sharply over the past 25 years, according to both the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) (pdf).

The rate of violent crimes fell by 49 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to the FBI’s UCR, which only reflects crimes reported to the police.

The violent crime rate dropped by 74 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to the BJS’s NCVS, which takes into account both crimes that have been reported to the police and those that have not.

The FBI recently released preliminary data for 2018. According to the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January to June 2018, violent crime rates in the United States dropped by 4.3 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2017.

While the overall rate of violent crime has seen a steady downward drop since its peak in the 1990s, there have been several upticks that bucked the trend. Between 2014 and 2016, the murder rate increased by more than 20 percent, to 5.4 per 100,000 residents, from 4.4, according to an Epoch Times analysis of FBI data. The last two-year period that the rate soared so quickly was between 1966 and 1968.