Neighbor on Queens man with bomb-making equipment: 'Obviously the man is sick'

ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) -- The investigation continues into the discovery of bomb-making materials after a fire inside a home in Queens, and the neighbor who first noticed something strange is speaking out about what led authorities to the suspect.

The incident started with a fire around 2 p.m. Tuesday at the home on 19th Street in Astoria, near Astoria Park, with fire crews extinguishing the flames and taking a tenant described as "emotionally distraught" to the hospital with burns to his hands.

Hours after emergency crews left the scene, the landlord and a neighbor discovered what appeared to be a fireproof box outside of the home. Next-door neighbor Debbie Riga said the box was suspicious, and so they decided to open it.

"I saw long fuses, and I saw some kind of powder," Riga said, "It was packaged, but I also saw an awful lot of FedEx packages. They were sealed. I was tempted to open them, but the police said that I would be breaking the law, so I didn't open them"

The tenant, 37-year-old Marak Squires, remains hospitalized and is charged with reckless endangerment. Federal agents are scouring his electronic devices and other evidence, and more charges are possible

"The fire really concerned me," Riga said. "My God, because these houses are so closer together."

Squires is a software developer and early Bitcoin investor, and neighbors said he kept to himself, that his blinds would mostly be shut, and that he had little to no interaction with anyone.

The materials were not assembled, but they were enough for Riga and the landlord to flag down firefighters, who called the police and FBI.

When investigators entered Squires' apartment to look further, they found more bomb making items including potassium nitrate.

Magnesium powder, sulfur powder, copper powder, aluminum powder, hobby fuse and mixing cups were also discovered in the home.

"The chemicals separately are what they are, but taken together they can assemble an explosive device," Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said. "There were books about military explosives, booby traps and other things...What we're looking at here is the totality of the circumstances that raised our concern to a level where we're going to need more investigation."

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the fire and looking into the mental state of the tenant.

"Obviously the man is sick," Riga said. "He didn't get the help he needs, and it results in things like this."

A second suspect suffered second-degree burns and is in the Cornell burn unit at the hospital where he is being evaluated.

Squires has one prior arrest for misdemeanor assault for a dispute with his 28-year-old girlfriend over a cell phone. She suffered a bruised arm and a scratch in the scuffle.

Squires graduated from East Hampton High School.

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The Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD bomb squad responded to the scene, and Astoria Park was evacuated as a precaution.

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