Thursday, May 25, 2017

Facing Foreclosure, Landlord Gets Pinched For Alleged Attempt To Torch Now-Vacant Building By Booby-Trapping It With Improvised Bomb, Pales Of Gasoline

In Rochester, New York, WHEC-TV Channel 10 reports:
  • A Webster man has been charged with trying to burn down an apartment building he owns in Rochester.

    Investigators says Eric Reynolds rigged the building on Ridgeway Avenue, which is empty and under foreclosure, with explosive devices. Someone walking by smelled gasoline and alerted the fire department.

    Fire officials say one of the devices that was in the building actually detonated, but it failed to light the fire. Investigators believe Reynolds planted devices in the apartment building hooked to gasoline and rigged with timers in an effort to burn the place down.

    Investigators tell us Reynolds came to the scene on Ridgeway Avenue the night it was discovered and was acting odd, so Wednesday [May 17] night, police and fire investigators issued a search warrant at his home in Webster. We saw them removing evidence bags early Wednesday morning, that they now say tie him to the crime on Ridgeway.

    Reynolds will be arraigned Thursday morning on the felony charges of arson and criminal possession of a weapon. The investigation into his intent is still ongoing.

    Greg Johnson lived in the building on Ridgeway for five years. He says he worked for Eric Reynolds. "I rented from him for about a year or better before he asked me to start helping him rent the apartments and stuff like that."

    He says Reynolds would come and go to collect rent. "He'd come with a big black German Shepard, smoking a big cigar and walking through the building with a gun on his waist."

    But then the tenants learned the building was in foreclosure and moved out. A few days ago, someone passing by it smelled gasoline and called the fire department. When firefighters got inside, they say it was booby-trapped with explosive devices and pales of gasoline.

    "The level of sophistication is definitely higher than something we normally encounter fortunately but it makes it that much more dangerous because it's not something we're trained for, we're not bomb technicians," says Deputy Chief James Hartman, RFD.

    "We do not know right now what the motivation was of the individual who set this system up, whether it was just to damage property or whether it was to harm people," says Hartman.

    Johnson says, at this point, intent doesn't matter. "There are human lives around there. There are kids around all that type of stuff. Who knows what time that could've went off -- as school is letting out. There's a bus stop right next to the building... All those things got to be taken into consideration."

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