It took at least 200 firefighters to wrangle a massive blaze at a Brooklyn mall’s parking garage Monday morning, closing the King’s Plaza mall until Wednesday and sending toxic clouds of smoke through the air, the New York Post reported.
“The black, toxic smoke, the heat, the limited area firefighters had to work in all made it very difficult to quickly extinguish the fire,” New York Fire Department commissioner Daniel Nigro said, according to the paper. The blaze caused at least 29 injuries to civilians and emergency officials, according to Bklyner.
Poice say it was all started by one man with an unusual motive, the New York Daily News reported.
According to a criminal complaint obtained by the paper, police said 23-year-old Evon Stephens, who is homeless, crawled into a parked car in a section of the garage where auto dealers store luxury cars. Police say he set the car on fire, then exited the vehicle, gave the middle finger to a security camera and fled, the paper reported.
Police arrested him after he began talking to officers about the fire several hours later, asking questions like, “What do you think will happen, how long will the mall be closed and do you know who did it,” Patch reported.
Police said he confessed to setting the fire in a statement, and said the reason he did it was because of “his belief that others used the parked vehicles for sexual activity,” according to PIX 11.
At least 135 of the cars in the garage were burned, Patch reported.
“The defendant put several lives intentionally at risk,” said assistant U.S. attorney Temidayo Aganga-Williams, according to the New York Daily News.
Stephens said, “I’m sorry” and “I apologize” as he was led to a patrol car before appearing in court Tuesday, according to Brooklyn Daily. He was given no bail.
The garage was not damaged so much that it was unsafe, although police ordered people not to use the area where the fire occurred for the time being, News 12 reported.
Nigro said some of the firefighters were still recovering from the incident, according to the New York Post.
“Our members have various levels of smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion, working under those conditions with this amount of smoke and this amount of heat wearing what they wear, one can only imagine what they went through,” he said, according to the paper.