Prosecutors: Man charged with torching SUV in auto shop parking lot too drunk to remember it

MILWAUKEE -- A man was caught on camera setting an SUV on fire outside a Milwaukee auto shop. Police say even though he recognized himself in the surveillance photos, he told police he didn't really remember committing the crime.

Sharon Haapakoski, owner of Twenty First Century Auto said she's baffled by the fact that someone would just walk off the street and do something like this.

"Why? Why? I don't understand why you would just go someplace and torch a car. No clue," Haapakoski said.

But that's what prosecutors say happened early Thursday morning, November 30th. 38-year-old Michael Balistreri faces one count of arson of property other than a building after investigators say he walked onto the Twenty First Century Auto parking lot that day.

Sharon Haapakoski

"Just random. Come and start a fire? 'Let's start a fire tonight.' I don't know," Haapakoski said.

The surveillance video shows a man walking back and forth to a dumpster, grabbing cardboard, lighting it on fire and throwing it into a Chevy Suburban.

According to a criminal complaint, a Greenfield police officer spotted Balistreri walking nearby. Police later interviewed him at his home and found clothing that matched the suspect's. When they showed him surveillance photos, they say he admitted it was him, but he said he was too drunk to remember the details of the crime.

"I hope he's held accountable," Haapakoski said.

Haapakoski said she's thankful for an arrest, and that her surveillance video turned out to be the "smoking gun."

"It did work out in the end and I'm very happy," Haapakoski said.

Investigators say Balistreri told them he felt bad about what happened. FOX6 News stopped by his home but his family didn't wish to speak with us.

Balistreri made his initial appearance in court in this case on December 2nd. A preliminary hearing was set for December 12th, and a $2,500 signature bond was set.