Former City Councilman Eric Gioia Doesn't Believe Attack Was Personal

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A 22-year-old man was charged Monday night in a series of alleged arsons in Sunnyside Queens.

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Devon Page, 22, of Sunnyside, stood charged Monday night with five counts of arson, police said.

Page was held responsible for setting a string of fires nearby in the area of 49th Street and 34th Avenue in Queens. He was caught on video setting fire to a dumpster right outside Donato’s Restaurant & Pizza, 50-22 39th Ave., and casually walking away as the sparks ignited.

Moments later, the dumpster was engulfed.

“He could have killed somebody, yes,” said restaurant owner Oswaldo Calle.

As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, former City Councilman Eric Gioia’s sport-utility vehicle was also set on fire in his driveway around 5 a.m. Sunday in a seemingly random attack, authorities said. The 2007 Mercury Mariner was consumed by a fireball as Gioia’s family slept inside.

“We thought one of our kids had fallen out of bed, but it was such a loud sound we thought maybe our daughter in the top bunk fell out of bed,” he told 1010 WINS “So I got up and looked in her room – she was still laying in bed. So I opened my son’s door – he’s ten months old – and I saw a huge fireball outside his window.”

Gioia said he “jumped on top of (my son’s) crib, yelled to my wife to get the girls, and ran out of the house.”

“I felt really scared,” said Amelia Hernandez Gioia.

The SUV was burned to its shell, the flames decimating everything inside. In surveying the remains, Gioia found what he thought had once been his BlackBerry.

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The force from the blast was so intense that a piece of the airbag was found in a tree. The impact also broke some of the Gioia family home’s windows.

“We’re lucky we live in a brick house,” Gioia said. “It could have been far worse.”

As of Monday afternoon, police said there was no specific evidence to suggest that Gioia – a Democrat who served in the City Council from 2002 to 2009 — was targeted. But police were still keeping watch outside of his home.

“I have no reason why anyone would want to do this to me or my family,” Gioia said, adding that he believes the arson was an arbitrary act of destruction.

Gioia said that at the time of the incident he was too focused on making sure his family was safe to realize how close the fire was to his house.

“When you survey the damage and realize how close your house came to going up in flames, you count your lucky stars,” he said. “It’s a pretty scary thing.”

Meanwhile over at Donato’s, the dumpster was gone – the damage contained to the outside.

Police also found four garbage can fires on two nearby blocks when they responded to the car fire.

No motive for the alleged arsons had been specified Monday night.

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