Fire marshals arrested a 31-year-old man in connection with deliberately starting five fires within NYCHA’s Louis Heaton Pink Houses over a span of six months, including one on Nov. 7 that nearly killed an elderly couple in their apartment, fire officials said.
Fire officials identified the suspect as 31-year-old Michael F. Hall —the next door neighbor of his last victim.
Fire Marshals determined that the fires were purposely set during early morning hours at the front doors of apartments, blocking the escape of residents and initial access by responding firefighters. Ultimately, each fire was quickly brought under control. The fires led to a total of four injuries to residents, officials said.
In his last attack, Anna and Dorilo Gonzalez, originally from the Dominican Republic, were rescued from their apartment by firefighters after they became trapped by the fire set with flammable liquid. Neither one was seriously injured.
Fire officials say Hall is also being charged with fires at 2628 Linden Blvd on May 28, Oct. 18, Oct 26 and Nov. 3 – all early morning fires set against the doors of his victims.
The Gonzalez’s, originally from the Dominican Republic, were rescued by firefighters after they were trapped inside their home on Loring Avenue in East New York’s Pink Houses at about 4:48 a.m. Nov. 7
Fire department sources were already investigating Hall, the next-door neighbor of the Gonzalez family, as a potential suspect in the arson. The family said he had been making threats against the couple and had gone on “racist rants” against Hispanic people during the past month.
The family was left picking through the remains of their property after the fire and were relocated by NYCHA. The family said they had complained to NYCHA and the police about Hall, who they said had been erratic in the past month.
“Arson is a violent crime that demonstrates a depraved indifference to the lives of New Yorkers and FDNY members,” said Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro in a statement. “Once again, the investigative work of our Fire Marshals has led to the apprehension of a dangerous individual who used fire as a weapon to harm others.”
Hall faces one count of attempted murder, two counts of arson, one count of criminal possession of a dangerous weapon, two counts of attempted assault, one count of menacing, and harassment. The case will be prosecuted by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.