NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A 16-year-old boy said mere boredom was what led him to light a fire outside his Coney Island, Brooklyn apartment – a blaze that went on to leave two police officers in critical condition.
Marcell Dockery was charged with assault, arson and reckless endangerment, police said. He lives on the 12th floor of the residential high-rise on Surf Avenue where the fire broke out Sunday afternoon, police said.
Sources said police believe the teen, who allegedly has a history of setting fires, lit a mattress on fire in the hallway on the 13th floor of the building, CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
Following the fire, the hallway of the building was left charred and damaged. A day later, Dockery had few words for reporters he was led into a Brooklyn Courthouse.
Dockery told detectives he set the fire because he was “bored,” 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported. Sources told CBS 2 he then tried to put it out himself, but it raged out of control. His cousin called police.
Dockery told police when he could not extinguish the fire, he banged on doors to warn residents, CBS 2 Tony Aiello reported.
Off camera, Dockery’s mother told CBS 2 News she thinks her son caved into pressure during questioning with detectives.
“There’s no malice; there’s an excitement with these kids,” Robert Maldonado, a resident of the building, said. “They just want to light up a fire, and they don’t see the consequences. So I feel bad for the two officers.”
Dockery expected to appear for an arraignment Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, family and friends of two officers hurt while responding to the fire were left hoping for the best.
Rosa Rodriguez, a four-year veteran of the NYPD Housing Bureau and her partner, Dennis Guerra, were overcome by smoke and carbon monoxide as they reached the fire by elevator on the 13th floor.
On radio transmissions, the officers could be heard gasping for air.
Guerra: “Can’t breathe, can’t breathe.”
Dispatch: “He can’t breathe. He’s on the 14th floor. They’re on the 14th floor. They can’t breathe.”
Dispatch: “OK, 13th floor.”
CAUTION: Audio May Be Disturbing
The FDNY was just minutes behind them. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said firefighters found the officers “unconscious and unresponsive” in the hallway and pulled them to safety.
An elevator shaft acts like a chimney during a fire, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported. Fire Department protocol calls for first responders to stop below the fire floor to minimize the risk, Adams reported.
The two suffered from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Rodriguez was transported to Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. Guerra was taken to Jacobi Medical Center.
“They’re getting state-of-the-art therapy and being stabilized in the intensive care units,” said NYPD chief surgeon Dr. Eli Kleinman.
As the mattress burned and filled the hallway with black smoke, the resident living closest to the fire looked out a peephole and realized the danger.
“It was too late,” Elly Torres said. “We couldn’t get out. I knew enough not to run for the elevator, not to leave this door. The building is fireproof, but the paint, of course, burns.”
Rodriguez, 36, is a mother of four, while Guerra, 38, is a married father of four who has more than seven years on the job. His father is a retired NYPD detective.
“Before I went to bed last night, I prayed for them,” Torres said. “Hoped I’d fall asleep. I didn’t. Tossed and turned. Got up and prayed again.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident a sobering reminder of the dangers first responders face.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with these officers and their families,” he said.
City Councilman Mark Treyger (D-47th), who represents Coney Island, praised the officers’ attempt to race to the fire.
“They rush into emergencies when most people have to rush out,” he told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith. “And it just speaks to the courage.”
Thirteen others were also injured in the blaze, including three firefighters.
The investigation was ongoing late Monday.
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