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Police ID Suspect Accused Of Firebombing South Philly Home

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Fire scene in South Philadelphia on July 25, 2014. (credit: Jan Carabeo)

Fire scene in South Philadelphia on July 25, 2014. (credit: Jan Carabeo)

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By Jan Carabeo and Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The fire marshal, detectives and a special K-9 unit searched through charred remains in South Philadelphia Friday morning.

Only hours before, a row home in the 1700 block of Sigel Street was on fire with three people trapped inside.

Gail Skinner, a neighbor, says “I heard this woman hollering, help me, help us.” Skinner woke her daughter who called 911.

“I’m hollering, where are you? And I told them firemen are on their way.” But help was already on scene.

Police say a lieutenant in plain clothes, in the area on an unrelated matter, spotted the flames and rushed to help.

Philadelphia Police Captain Lou Campione says, “Kicked in the front door, started to yell for the occupants to get out and they were able to make their escape from the rear of the property.”

They all jumped to safety from the second floor.

A 59-year-old-man, a 47-year-old woman and a three-year-old girl were all taken to the hospital. The male suffered a broken leg and multiple broken ribs from jumping from the window.

Police say the hero cop is Lieutenant Jonathan Josey.

Campione says, “Outstanding, may have saved three lives.”

Josey is the same cop fired by Philadelphia Police in September 2012, after he was seen on video apparently striking a woman during a Puerto Rican day parade.

Josey was later acquitted of assault charges and the fraternal order of police appealed his dismissal. He has since been reinstated and today this neighborhood is relieved he was here.

According to investigators, the suspect, identified as 46-year-old Christopher Smith, was seen pushing a window air conditioner in a residence on the 1700 block of Sigel Street. He allegedly squirted a liquid from a small container into the window then lit a flame.

The suspect then fled in a black 2009 Chrysler 300, only to return minutes later with a larger bottle of liquid and spray it inside the window.

It was at this time that a flame was accelerated.

The fire marshal officially determined the fire to be arson.

Philadelphia Police say Smith is in custody and will be charged.

 

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