Two charged in connection with fire at El Rey grocery store

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Two teens have been charged with arson in connection with a January 3rd fire at the El Rey grocery store after they were recognized through surveillance video. 

A cart corral caught fire at El Rey grocery store on Milwaukee's south side and sent nearly $300,000 worth of food to the landfill and forced over $400,000 worth of repairs.

Now, police believe they have caught the culprits. According to a criminal complaint, 17-year-old Alexander Karsten and 18-year-old Miguel Rubio are the two accused arsonists caught on surveillance video. 

Police say after this surveillance video was distributed to the media, a woman called in identifying Karsten and Rubio as the two caught on camera.

When Karsten and Rubio were taken into custody, the charging document says they each told the same story -- the went to El Rey's hoping to bum a cigarette from someone near the store. When they couldn't, they began lighting and smoking cigarette butts and then flicking them into the cart corral. 

The suspects told police they believe that is what caused the fire.

Investigators say cigarette butts would not have generated enough heat to start a fire so quickly. They believe the fire began with "ordinary combustibles" such as paper and random garbage.

While the store's owners have said they want to move past the ordeal, they've also added closure would be nice.

Karsten and Rubio waived their preliminary hearing on Thursday, January 24th and entered pleas of not guilty. The two remain out of custody after each signing a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. 

Karsten and Rubio will be back in court in February.

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