A 16-year-old was charged Monday with arson, assault and reckless endangerment after he allegedly set a mattress fire that severely injured two NYPD housing officers on Sunday in Coney Island, officials said.
Marcell Dockery of 2007 Surf Ave. was awaiting arraignment in criminal court late Monday after police said he admitted setting the smoky fire that overcame housing police officers Rosa Rodriguez and Dennis Guerra and sent them to the hospital. Both officers, who live in Queens, had taken the elevator to the 13th floor of Dockery's building, where dense smoke conditions from the mattress fire caused them to lose consciousness.
"Can't breathe, can't breathe," Guerra is heard gasping in a police radio transmission aired on 1010 WINS. He and Rodriguez were found unconscious and unresponsive in the hallway by firefighters.
Rodriguez and Guerra remained in critical condition Monday, said a police official. Rodriguez was described as being slightly improved Monday at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, in Manhattan. Guerra was transferred from Jacobi Medical Center to Montefiore Medical Center, both in the Bronx.
A law enforcement official who didn't want to be named said Guerra was in more serious condition and had needed to be resuscitated a number of times. "He is clearly the more serious," the source said.
Dockery, who lives on the building's 12th floor, had a prior juvenile case involving arson that was sealed, indicating it may have been dismissed, said the law enforcement official. Dockery didn't give authorities a reason for starting the blaze he is accused of, the official said yesterday, but he seemed "nonchalant" and indicated a fascination with fire.
A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office didn't respond to a request for information about the earlier case.
The Coney Island fire will prompt the NYPD to review procedures to see if any corrective measures or changes in training need to be done, said NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis.
According to Davis, the Patrol Guide, the operational manual meant to guide police in their duties, only talks generally about fires and leaves a lot to the discretion of officers on the scene. "Take action as deemed appropriate," was how Davis summarized the overarching Patrol Guide philosophy on fires.
Retired detective Joseph Giacalone said that adrenaline takes over, making cops take risks in emergencies. "I have done the same thing; you don't think of your own safety," said Giacalone.