Queens Building Set on Fire by Emotionally Disturbed Person, Burning Himself and Injuring Four Others

NY Daily News - October 05, 2016

by John Annese, Andy Mai

An emotionally disturbed man set a gas canister ablaze in a Queens apartment Monday, sparking an explosion that burned him and left four others, including a cop, with minor injuries, officials said.

Police showed up at the man’s third-floor Jamaica apartment on 89th Ave. by 162nd St. about 3:20 p.m. — after his mother called 911 because he was threatening to torch the place, officials said.

His mom met the officers, who started talking to the 29-year-old through the door, cops said. Then, the police heard a boom.

“Moments later, a male emerged from inside the apartment with burns on his face and his lower extremities,” said NYPD Chief David Barrere, who commands the Queens South patrol borough.

Police did not identify the man.

“We know he has an extensive emotional history. He’s got one sealed arrest ... he’s been transported several times to the hospital for emotional problems,” Barrere said.

Javier Sanchez, 50, who lives on the floor below, said he heard “a rumbling, like a loud bang,” then looked out the window to see glass raining down. “The cops had him and he was escorted barefoot and his pants were ripped or burnt,” he said.

Police took the suspect away in handcuffs, Sanchez said.

The fire soon spread, drawing more than 100 firefighters and about 25 fire units to the six-story building, FDNY officials said.

“The fire was actually blowing out three windows in the rear of the building and out two windows in the front of the building,” said FDNY Chief Edward Baggott. “I think we saved a lot of people from injury here.”

Four people were treated on the scene for minor injuries, including a cop who suffered smoke inhalation, but all refused further medical attention, officials said. Imran Ansary, who lives nearby and posted video of the blaze on Facebook and YouTube, said he picked up his 4-year-old daughter, Rumaisa Akter, from preschool moments earlier.

“Mom, we can see the smoke!” the girl told her mother, Ansary recounted.

He ran outside to start taking video of the scene. “Within 20 minutes, they controlled the fire,” he said.