TO OUR READERS: The following story is based on witness accounts and a police report released Wednesday. He placed both hands on the steering wheel, stared straight ahead and barrelled toward the front entrance of Home Depot.
Ali R. Warrayat hadn't slept in days, planning this moment down to the last detail. Now, his face was void of any expression. A store employee jumped out of the car's path. To drown out the man's yells, Warrayat reached over to his car radio and blasted Arabic music before crashing through the front doors.
The scene was only the beginning of a violent rampage through the Chandler store on Dec. 18. For the 24-year-old Arizona State University student, the motives behind the attack were personal.
He told Chandler police he was angry at Home Depot, where he worked as a paint stocker, about not getting a proper raise. He was mad at the United States for proposing a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border.
He wanted to make America "more free."
So the Jordanian-turned-U.S. citizen devised a plan to make a grand statement by crashing into the store at Alma School Road and Chandler Boulevard and setting it on fire.
At first, he wanted to wear a Palestinian flag, but later decided to place it in the trunk of his car, along with a copy of the Quran and a necklace.
He then grabbed his cat and his uncle's pit bull and brought them along for the ride with the intent of killing them in the fire.
After crashing through the doors at 6 a.m. that Sunday, he expertly navigated the aisles and headed straight for the paint department, slamming his car into the flammable goods.
He jumped to the roof of the car, looked around for a second and then hopped to the ground.
He used a lighter to ignite the blaze, and loud explosions followed as store employees ran for safety.
Many employees recognized Warrayat, who worked in the store six months ago but transferred to a Queen Creek location after having difficulties with a supervisor.
Inside the car, the dog, named Tyson, crouched against the floorboards trying to escape the flames, eventually dying from the toxic smoke.
The cat was never found.
As Warrayat headed for the exit, he swept merchandise from the shelves and then sat on the curb outside waiting for police to come and arrest him.
But his cooperation ended there as he kicked and struggled with officers when asked to get in the patrol car.
When an officer asked if he understood his Miranda rights, Warrayat shot back in a foreign language. The officer asked if he understood English, and Warrayat replied in English, "Do you speak Arabic?"
He was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and arson, causing about $1 million in damage. He is being held without bond at Maricopa County's Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix.
The day after the incident, Warrayat staged a bizarre news conference, asking the media to come to Towers Jail in Phoenix to receive a statement.
But when seated before the hungry reporters and television cameras, he only looked at them. He gazed at the ceiling and the floor, his lips pursed, and refused to answer any of their questions. Then he pulled his jail inmate badge out of his shirt pocket and laid it on the table in front of him.
Bewildered jail officials ushered him in the hall, where he said he wasn't going to talk.
Co-worker and friend Joaquin Bustamante said Warrayat was "gentleman-like and respectable with everyone."
"When I saw him on TV, he did not look like the Ali that I know," Bustamante said. "He was a hard worker and worked circles around everybody, and he was a very private person."
Bustamante said Warrayat was deeply religious and had a Quran hanging from his rearview mirror.
In police statements, Warrayat referred to his religion often. He said a swastika was once painted on the mosque where he prays, so he had the mark tattooed in red and black on the bottom of his foot. In his religion, stepping on things is considered disrespectful.
He also described trying to put the dog in his trunk to show it the Quran. He said dogs are "filthy" and that was why the dog didn't want to be in the trunk with the holy book.
Police served a search warrant on the Gilbert house where he lives with his parents, seizing a computer and other items.
Initial images on his computer depicted men lighting Molotov cocktails and a cartoon of two bloodied and dead children with a Middle Eastern flag in the background.
A Home Depot official told police that if Warrayat is released from jail, management is considering placing armed guards at all of its East Valley stores.
Contact Kristina Davis by email, or phone (480)-898-6446. Contact Katie McDevitt by email, or phone (480) -898-633