Police: Benton Harbor man snaps, tries to burn down home with 2 inside

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Two women are alive tonight because a lighter didn’t work.

52-year-old Melvin Polk was arrested Tuesday on assault with intent to murder charges. Police say he tried to light his house on fire with his aunt and ex-girlfriend inside.

“In an instant,” said Polk’s aunt, Sandra Banks. “We could have both gone up in flames.”

According to Benton Township Police, Tuesday morning just before 8 a.m. Banks and Polk got in an argument in the living room of Banks’ home at 942 Chicago Street in Benton Harbor.

Banks called the argument “minor” and told ABC 57 News that things quickly got out of hand. “The next thing we knew we heard gas splashing on the floor,” she said.

Banks and Polk’s ex-girlfriend Kim Fultz were trapped in the living room.

“I said ‘he’s got a gas can, he’s got a gas can,’” said Fultz, who escaped through a window while Polk tried to ignite the gasoline.

The front door of the home was bolted. “I didn’t have the key,” said Banks.

The only other way out was the back door which was blocked by Polk trying to start the floor on fire.

“I knew he struck (the lighter) more than four times,” said Banks.

“If he had kept flicking the lighter it would have lit with the fumes not just the gas.”

Delmar Lange with Benton Township Police told ABC 57 News Thursday that Polk’s attempts to use the lighter were unsuccessful.

Banks said she called police and Polk ran from the home without doing any damage to the building or the women trapped inside.

“By the grace of god we’re still here,” said Banks.

According to court documents, Polk told police that he “snapped and was going to start the fire but then realized what he was doing and fled the scene.”

Polk was tracked down by officers and booked at the Berrien County Jail. He is being held on a $300,000 bond and will appear in court July 20th.

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