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Nearby SUV set on fire minutes before Houston arson investigator was shot and killed

The HFD arson investigator who was gunned down Friday morning may have been investigating a vehicle fire that happened a few blocks away.

HOUSTON —                                                                                                     

A couple in Shady Acres woke up early Friday to discover their SUV had been set on fire. Their Ring camera showed the arsonist struck at 3:30 a.m.

Trey and Charla Allen didn’t know at the time that an HFD arson investigator was shot and killed minutes later.

Dorcas Nelson and her husband heard the gunshots.

“It woke us up. It was 3:35…,’” she said. “Several. Boom. Boom. Boom.”

Before he was shot, Lemuel Bruce, 44, had radioed other investigators to let them know he was following an arson suspect.

When the rest of the team arrived, they found Bruce with multiple gunshot wounds and the suspect was dead. Bruce later died at the hospital.

RELATED: 'Tragic loss' | HFD arson investigator killed in shootout; suspect also dead

He was part of a team of seven HFD arson investigators who were in the Greater Heights area early Friday morning because of a rash of recent arsons.

HFD hasn’t confirmed that Bruce was chasing the suspect who set the Allen's SUV on fire. But it happened just a few blocks from where he was shot and just minutes before. 

“He snuck in there. Put something in the exhaust pipe. And then he stepped back, checked out his work and walked away,” Trey Allen said.

Hours later, around, 9 a.m., arson investigators responded to another vehicle fire on West 17th at Ashland. This time, a Porsche was set on fire and someone used a garden hose to put it out.

One suspect, 28-year-old Joshua Rauch, was arrested last weekend in connection with seven earlier fires in the Greater Heights Area. He’s still in jail.

Arson investigators are trying to figure out if there’s any connection between these latest fires or if they’re the work of copycats.