NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An overnight fire in an apartment in the Bronx turned into a crime scene Thursday after police said a man was found dead inside with a gunshot wound to the head.
The fire broke out just before 11:30 p.m. inside an apartment on Gleason Avenue in the Unionport section.
“I heard the fire alarm going off, went downstairs looked to see if I could find it, saw smoke coming from the door and I started banging but nobody answered,” neighbor Roger Schultz said. “I immediately called 911.”
“I just can’t understand it,” another neighbor said. “We’ve never seen anything like it.”
As CBS2’s Reena Roy reported, 45-year-old Noel Farrow was shot in the head, and left to die in his own kitchen.
To destroy evidence of what police have called a homicide, the gunman then set the third floor apartment on fire with a chemical substance.
“Sad, so sad, don’t wish that upon anybody,” Yadira Del Valle said.
Later Thursday night, police released surveillance images of a man they are trying to identify in connection with the incident.
He was described as a black man with a beard, who was last seen wearing a baseball cap, a waist-length jacket and blue jeans.
The superintendent Jose Borrel said he had to help some of the residents get out of the building.
“I saw flames and I went inside and I saved somebody out from the second floor,” he said. “There was a lot of smoke in the building.”
After putting out the blaze, police said they found Farrow dead in the kitchen area. The medical examiner later determined he sustained a gunshot wound to the head, police said.
The superintendent said Farrow had just moved in recently and wasn’t really well known.
“He’s a new guy,” Borrel said. “He lived in there almost two or three months.”
Authorities said he had been arrested in the past — once in Westchester back in 1999 for criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Borrel says the victim’s apartment plus four others were damaged.
Borrel also told CBS2 he has surveillance video showing a man leaving the building before and after the blaze.
“The camera shows everything so police have all the information,” he said.
Some residents had to climb down to safety using a fire escape.
“I immediately got up because I saw a lot of smoke. I opened the door and the super came running in,” one resident said.
Despite the damage to five different units, tenants were grateful to make it out.
“It’s a scary moment. Anybody would be scared to have to leave their apartment in the middle of the night,” Del Valle said.
Four firefighters also suffered minor injuries, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.