Homeless man lit on fire in Kingsport park

Rain Smith • Oct 16, 2019 at 12:47 PM

KINGSPORT — A homeless Kingsport man was jailed late Tuesday night after allegedly lighting another on fire in a city park.

Kingsport Police Department records state that at about 11:30 p.m., officers were alerted to a fight at Memorial Gardens Park. The park is located next to Dobyns-Bennett High School on Fort Henry Drive, and the 49-year-old victim had been asleep on a bench.

He told police that he awoke to flames on his blankets, pants, shoes and right leg. Walking away was another homeless man, Ricky L. Laney, 51.

After putting out the fire, the victim confronted Laney, who is listed in records as an acquaintance. Laney reportedly ran away across Fort Henry Drive to the Palmer Center, a preschool and early learning center.

Police report finding Laney behind the building and taking him into custody. Records state that he denied setting the other man on fire, "but did say they got into a fight, which he lost."

EMS responded to treat the victim. He refused transport to the hospital. According to his account, Laney claimed that employees of a nearby convenience store directed him to light the fire.

How the fire was started is not stated in the police report. But the victim believed the incident was possibly motivated by an incident a couple of weeks prior, when Laney accused him of stealing a bottle of liquor.

Laney was charged with arson and aggravated assault. During transport to the Kingsport jail, he allegedly made threats about the other man: "As soon as I get out I'm gonna kill him."

Prior to Tuesday's incident, Kingsport police had arrested Laney four times this year. The charges were public intoxication and resisting arrest.

Records show that since 2015, Laney has at least 18 additional arrests in the city. Those charges include public intoxication, disorderly conduct, theft and trespassing.