Man Arrested in Upper Manhattan Building Fire That Displaced Dozens

NY Times - February 10, 2018

by Matthew Haag

A resident of an Upper Manhattan apartment building has been arrested on charges that he set the fire in November that left it badly damaged and displaced dozens of people, the authorities said on Thursday.

The man, Jelani Parker, was arrested around 5:30 p.m. and will face charges including felony assault, arson and reckless endangerment, Detective Hubert Reyes of the New York Police Department said.

Mr. Parker, 34, apparently fled to Los Angeles at some point after the Nov. 17 fire, which destroyed the top two floors of the six-story brownstone at 565 West 144th Street in Hamilton Heights.

A Los Angeles police spokesman, Officer Tony Im, said late Thursday that officers from the department’s central division had come in contact with Mr. Parker in January; he said they arrested Mr. Parker after verifying that he was wanted in New York on a warrant. The arrest was reported by WABC Thursday night.

Arrangements were then made for the authorities in New York to pick up Mr. Parker, Officer Im said. Los Angeles County jail records indicate that Mr. Parker was released from jail there sometime Thursday.

Detective Reyes could not provide additional information about Mr. Parker or say how the authorities believe he started the fire. He referred additional questions to the New York Fire Department.

The Fire Department did not respond to an email inquiry late Thursday, and a department spokesman, reached by phone, referred questions to the Manhattan district attorney’s office. A spokeswoman for that office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

More than 250 firefighters and emergency workers responded to the fire at the building. It destroyed the homes of about three dozen families, who then had to squeeze into relatives’ apartments, move to city shelters or find affordable hotel rooms.