St. Louis alderman: Tape gives police 'heck of a lead' in catching arsonist

2012-06-19T08:26:00Z 2012-06-21T19:19:45Z St. Louis alderman: Tape gives police 'heck of a lead' in catching arsonistBY KIM BELL • kbell@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8115 stltoday.com

 

ST. LOUIS • St. Louis Alderman Antonio French said police detectives have a "heck of a lead" in catching the arsonist who torched the 21st Ward Community Office early this morning on Natural Bridge Avenue.

"We got video of the incident," French said. "They poured gasoline and set the fire. We have the whole thing on tape."

The fire was set at about 4:30 a.m. and damaged the office at 4202 Natural Bridge Avenue. French, who is the 21st Ward alderman, said the ward community office is in a strip mall that also includes a police substation, where officers come daily. The ward office keeps up with complaints of suspected drug houses and nuisance properties.

French said the surveillance camera was mounted on a light pole in front of the building. He said it shows people setting fire to the building from the outside. Once the fire started, the building's alarm system sounded and alerted authorities.

French has watched the video but won't say if he recognizes anyone. He said the video is in the hands of investigators.

"They've got a heck of a lead," French says.

St. Louis police said they are looking for one arsonist. The suspect is a black man, 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-2, with a dark complexion and wearing a black do-rag, white T-shirt, black jeans and white tennis shoes.

"The suspect poured an accelerant into the building's mail slot and lit the liquid," according to a brief summary provided by police.

The city's bombing and arson detectives are on the case.

French said the building is not a political office and none of his campaign or personal papers were in the building.

"It's a hub for all of our community activities," he said.

No one was hurt in the fire. The community office has a summer program for about 60 kids, but that takes place at another facility. Two of the vans that transport the kids to the camp were parked in front of the community office but they were not damaged.

The fire left behind plenty of smoke damage and some fire damage in the lobby, French said.

"If somebody intended this act to prevent us from continuing progress in the ward, they will be disappointed," he said. "We aren't easily intimidated."

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