COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) — The man accused of trying to set the Columbia Kroger on fire last week is in the Maury County Jail, and he says he didn’t do it.
Jeffrey Mealer is accused of trying to burn down the Kroger in Columbia on Nashville Highway on the morning of June 5.
He told News 2 that unequivocally he did not do it.
Cordan: “You didn’t do it you tell me?”
Mealer: “It’s not in my character.”
Cordan: “It’s not in your character?”
Mealer: “I never tried to hurt anyone.”
Cordan: “You are not an arsonist?”
Cordan: “You were not mad at anyone in that store?”
Mealer: “Why would I be?”
On the morning of June 5, around 1:30 a.m., Maury County dispatchers received calls that the Kroger in Columbia on Nashville Highway was on fire.
Investigators knocked down the flames and quickly determined the fire was an arson.
Mealer: “I did not set no fire. I deny it. It is not me.”
Cordan: “If you didn’t do it that means that there’s someone out there who did?”
Mealer: “Apparently so.”
Cordan: “What do you want to tell the cops?”
Mealer: “Do your job.”
When police officers arrived, they immediately found the 53-year-old in his car with meth.
Cordan: “Did you set that Kroger on fire?”
Mealer: “No I did not.”
Cordan: “You did not?”
Mealer: “Did not.”
According to investigators, flames shot up the side of the building, carts were destroyed and sprinklers inside the store activated.
Six employees were inside the closed store at the time and all escaped without injury.
Cordan: “They say, when they showed up to the fire because someone called 911, you were in the parking lot. They say you were on meth, is that possible?”
Mealer: “That is absolutely not true.”
Cordan: “So you wouldn’t have had meth?”
Cordan: “And you wouldn’t be high on meth?”
Before the fire started, Kroger employees told police Mealer was outside the store banging on the door.
He reportedly was agitated when he was told his wife did not work there.
Mealer said he suffered a brain injury in a hit-and-run accident years prior. He said his wife worked at that Kroger years ago.
Cordan: “They said when the firetruck came in, your car was there and you wouldn’t get out of the way and they searched your car and found drugs?”
Mealer: “I don’t know.”
Cordan: “Do you use meth?”
Mealer: “No I don’t. I used to. Not anymore.”
Mealer said he has not used meth in 2 1/2 years.
Cordan: “I understand you don’t think you did it, correct?”
Mealer: “I know I didn’t.”
Cordan: “So, you don’t remember setting that place on fire?”
Cordan: “And you wouldn’t have any reason to set that place on fire?”
Cordan: “What do you think about being in jail charged with such serious felonies if indeed you are an innocent man?”
Mealer: “It ain’t innocent till proven guilty, you are guilty till proven innocent.”
Cordan: “There were six people in that Kroger.”
Mealer: “Did any of them see me do it?”
There are surveillance cameras all around the store. Columbia police told News 2 they are in possession of video evidence from the night in question.
Mealer’s bond is $205,000. He’s due in court next Wednesday.