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Suspect in Lafayette apartment arson was under court order to stay away

The man accused of starting the fire Saturday that displaced nearly 90 people from the Lafayette Barton Apartments had been under a court order not to be at the property.

Jonathan Jimenez, 29, set two fires in the closets of one of the building’s 36 apartments, using a lighter and common combustible items, according to a police report.

The suspect’s Herkimer Street residence is about a four-minute walk from the apartment building.

A Buffalo City Court judge had issued an order of protection in April 2016 forbidding Jimenez from the apartment building property at 115 Lafayette.

Jonathan Jimenez, 29, was arraigned Monday in City Court on charges of arson in the second degree, burglary, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and criminal contempt for violating the order of protection.

[Donations being accepted for tenants displaced by Lafayette arson]

Jimenez was arrested at 1 a.m. at the Buffalo Fire Marshal’s Office on Elmwood Avenue.

Janice Moore, 59, one of the tenants of the building, told The Buffalo News that fire marshals believed the fire started in a third-floor corner unit that was vacated Friday by a female tenant. Moore said the woman had been in a stormy relationship with a man who lived in a second-floor apartment.

“I was in my apartment and the maintenance man told me to keep an eye out for her boyfriend because the boyfriend had broken into her apartment. On Friday the maintenance man was boarding up the door,” Moore said.

Jonathan Jimenez was charged with setting the fire that heavily damaged a Lafayette Avenue apartment building Saturday.

Deputy Fire Commissioner Vincent Muscarella said Monday that Jimenez – who is 6-foot-4-inches tall and weighs 150 pounds – is seen on surveillance recordings entering the building and then leaving shortly before the fire was reported. Muscarella said the first reports came from telephone calls at 1:04 a.m. Saturday from the public.

Firefighters were able to get all residents out of the building and no civilians were injured. The blaze gutted the 100-year-old three-story brick structure.

An NFTA bus was brought to the scene to keep the evacuees warm while Red Cross workers arranged shelter at St. John Episcopal Church on Colonial Circle.

Chuck Marra, executive director of the WNY Red Cross, said 84 people are being assisted with food, clothing and shelter.

Frigid weather hampered efforts to extinguish the blaze, Muscarella said. The “rain roof” that had been installed on the building to prevent weather-related water damage also slowed firefighters.

More than 100 firefighters responded to the fire. Three were injured, but Muscarella said two already are back to work. A third firefighter who sustained a back injury is expected to be back soon, he said.

Damage is now estimated at $2 million to the building and $500,000 to its contents, fire officials said. As of Monday it had not been determined if the building would be salvageable or if the city would have to order an emergency demolition.

 

News staff reporter Jane Kwiatkowski Radlich contributed to this story.

[Photo Gallery: Fire at the Lafayette Barton apartments]

Apartment fire leaves dozens displaced, $2 million in damages

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