NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The teenage boy accused of setting the fire that killed a police officer in a Coney Island public housing high-rise has been charged with second-degree murder.
Marcell Dockery, 16, was indicted by a grand jury on the charge of second-degree murder, also called felony murder, on Friday afternoon, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
He was already charged with arson, assault and reckless endangerment.
“The senseless act of setting that fire tragically led to the death of NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra. His partner Officer Rosa Rodriguez suffered critical injuries. Both dedicated and courageous officers did not hesitate to risk their lives to save others. We will bring the Defendant to justice for these terrible and horrific crimes,” Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement Friday.
A grand jury had been considering evidence all week in the case, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
As CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported, more than 20 NYPD officers walked past Dockery’s family as the defendant appeared in court on Friday. Dockery’s attorney spoke in his client’s defense after the hearing.
“He is not guilty of these charges; that not only is he presumed innocent, but he is, in fact, innocent,” said attorney Jesse Young.
Dockery’s attorney said there will be much for him to question in defending the teen.
“Just because someone speaks doesn’t mean it’s true, don’t mean it’s voluntary and it doesn’t mean it’s their words and that’s going to be the standard. Is it their words? There are books written on coerced confessions,” Young said. “The issue will be whether he is to blame for the tragic death of this officer. That’s the simple, easiest way to look at it without legal language, without legal construction. Is he to blame for what happened to that officer?”
Dockery’s parents and loved-ones left the courtroom Friday morning, many of them hiding their faces.
Police said Dockery admitted to lighting a mattress on fire Sunday in the Coney Island Houses public housing high-rise at 2007 Surf Ave. in Brooklyn. He lit the mattress ablaze because he was bored, police alleged.
Sources have claimed Dockery has a history of setting fires. But Young said Dockery banged on doors trying to get people out of the building when he was unable to put out the fire.
NYPD officers Guerra and Rodriguez rushed to the 13th floor of the building to help, but they were overcome by smoke and carbon monoxide.
Guerra, 38, never regained consciousness. He died from his injuries Wednesday morning at Montefiore Medical Center. The married father of four had more than seven years on the job.
“We know Dennis will always live on,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a memorial vigil for Guerra at One Police Plaza this past Wednesday. “His countless acts of generosity in the lives he protected, and in the city he helped make safer.”
Rodriguez, 36, remained at the burn unit at Weill Cornell Medical Center as of Friday afternoon. She is a single mother of four kids and a four-year veteran of the NYPD Housing Bureau.
PBA President Patrick Lynch said Wednesday Dockery should be charged with murder.
“While we are pleased that the Brooklyn District Attorney has seen fit to increase the charges to felony murder, we recognize that it will not bring our fellow officer, Dennis Guerra, back to our ranks, or a husband, father and son back to his family,” Lynch said in a subsequent statement on Friday. “At very least, it will start us on the road to achieving justice in this case.”
Officer Guerra was survived by his wife Cathy and their four children – Kathleen, 20; Jonathan, 17; Alyssa, 14; and Zachary, 7.
A wake will be held Sunday and a funeral Monday for Guerra.
The Silver Shield Foundation announced it is collecting funds to help cover college expenses for Guerra’s children.
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