Two women have been arrested on charges that they threw Molotov cocktails – juice bottles containing gasoline stuffed with with paper that was lit on fire – into a house on Breckenridge Street on the morning of New Year's Day, leaving six people without a home, Buffalo police and fire investigators announced.
The suspects were identified as Ayesha Patterson, 28, and Latoya Austin, 41. They each were charged with first-degree arson, criminal mischief and multiple counts of reckless endangerment, according to authorities.
Firefighters were called to 171 Breckenridge, near Barton Street, at about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The incident started with some type of domestic dispute involving a male resident who lived in the multifamily home, Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said at a news conference Thursday.
Six people, including a 1-month-old and an 8-year-old, were inside the house when the fire started and made it out to safety. A tenant who lived on the second floor jumped out a window to escape the blaze. Three people were taken to Oishei Children's Hospital to be checked out, police said.
Also, a Buffalo police officer was taken to Erie County Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation.
The Red Cross was called in to help them find shelter. Damage to the house was estimated at $240,000.
On Wednesday, fire investigators were questioning "two persons of interest" in the suspected arson.
According to a police report, the women each had a juice bottle filled with gasoline and tissue or a paper napkin stuffed inside that was lit on fire when they approached the house, and at least one of the bottles was thrown into the house through a first-floor, dining room window.
They said the women had been involved in a physical dispute with a man at the house about an hour before the incident. They told investigators the man punched both of them and that the man choked Austin. One of the women said she was shocked with a taser and pepper-sprayed while at the house.
A description of the suspects' vehicle was put out, and police pulled over a vehicle on West Ferry Street with the two women inside a short time after the fire. They were brought to police and fire headquarters to be questioned by fire investigators, Renaldo said.
The women confessed to starting the fire, and video footage was obtained of the women allegedly buying the gasoline as well as starting the fire, he said.
"It's pretty cut and dry from that standpoint," the commissioner said.