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Customer Stops Man Who Tried To Burn Down Restaurant

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Baba Palace surveillance video

Surveillance video shows a customer and an employee of Baba Palace struggling with a man (center) who tried to light the restaurant on fire on Feb. 9, 2011 (Credit: Baba Palace)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A River North restaurant owner was praising a customer for saving his business and the lives of about 20 people after stopping a man who was threatening to burn down the restaurant.

Employees at Baba Palace, 334 W. Chicago Av., said the man brought a gas container into the restaurant on Wednesday after they refused to serve him.

As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, a fast-acting customer saved the day. The whole incident was caught on surveillance video

It was business as usual at Baba Palace on Friday, but owner Mohammad Malik said he is still haunted by what happened Wednesday night.

“Whenever I look at the video, it’s a very scary video,” Malik said.

On Wednesday, his employees refused to serve a man who appeared to be drunk, and told him to leave.

The man later returned and threw a container filled with urine over the counter. Employees called police, but after the officers left, the man came back with a gas container and a chilling message.

Malik said the man told them, “Go ahead, call the police. When the police come here, everything will be gone.”

After splashing gas on the counter and floor, the man tried to strike a match.

That’s when a customer, Ajay Kumra, stepped in and struck the man instead. Kumra also happens to be a martial arts student.

“I was just scared for my life,” Kumra said. “He was taking the matches about to like the place on fire, so that’s when I jumped on him and stopped him.

An employee quickly grabbed the gas container as Kumra and several others struggled with the man.

The man managed to break away and sling a chair at them, but they were able to hold him until police arrived.

Malik said he was amazed no one was hurt.

He said he doesn’t want to think about what might have happened if Kumra hadn’t acted so quickly.

“That’s what scared me. That’s what scared me,” Malik said.

He said he, along with his employees and customers, could have lost everything if the man had managed to light the match.

“Money, maybe I’m not concerned that much about the money, but the life of the people,” Malik said.

Kumra said he’s not a hero, that he was just in the right place at the right time.

The man was arrested and charged with criminal damage to property.

Malik said the man actually came back the following day looking for an iPod he thought he lost in the scuffle and apologized by saying, “I’m sorry. I was drunk.”

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