Resident arrested in deadly Brooklyn arson

February 2, 2010 10:15:24 PM PST
Daniel Ignacio walked out of the 62nd precinct handcuffed and telling reporters in Spanish "I am not a monster." Police say 27-year-old Ignacio got drunk, used paint thinner, toilet paper and a baby carriage to start a fire early Saturday morning. Detectives say he then went to his bed on the second floor and went to sleep.

He woke up to smoke, fire and screams for help.

Investigators confirm he even helped rescue victims, like two year old Josias Chan, from the fire.

Josias' two month old sister, Maria, was critically hurt in the blaze after being tossed from a window and their mother, Luisa, died after sacrificing her life for theirs.

"There's a mix match of feelings," Reverend Erick Salgado said.

Ignacio is charged with five counts of murder and arson.

Four men and one woman died in the fire, all from the suspect's native Guatemala. The fire early Saturday was the city's deadliest since a 2007 fire killed 10 people in the Bronx.

Salgado heard from the suspect after police say he confessed to the crime.

"I got a call from the sergeant from him saying it wasn't intentionally set, but the victims don't believe someone could do something like that for fun," Salgado said.

Ignacio, who was in the country illegally, was deported in 2003 after pleading guilty to burglary in 2002 and serving 10 months on the felony charge, police said. He was caught leaving a woman's apartment and he was found on the roof with her wallet, pink plastic comb and purple pen, police said. He was believed to have re-entered the country through Mexico sometime last year and was working as a day laborer.

On top of facing city charges, Ignacio could also federal charges for illegally re-entering the country after deportation, said Luis Martinez, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Neighbors and church members say they never suspected Ignacio could have set the fire.

Since the blaze, Ignacio talked to detectives at the scene and stopped in the church where many prayed and gave donations for the victims.

While detectives study the perpetrator, the victims' lawyer is focusing on the liability, if any, city agencies hold.

"In the event that the city the buildings department or the landlord. There would be civil action. That's what we're investigating," he said.

Fire investigators say the building was so badly burned that it's tough to tell if the apartments were illegally subdivided or if the escape exits were blocked. As many as 20 people lived in the Brooklyn building, which did not have adequate smoke detectors, officials said. It's not clear whether the landlord will face charges related to the blaze.