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Man Charged in Detroit Arson that Hurt Firefighters

Man Charged in Detroit Arson that Hurt Firefighters

Detroit Free Press via YellowBrix

August 21, 2010

DETROIT – A Detroit man has been charged in the arson fire that injured seven Detroit firefighters a week ago, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Samson Wright, 29, was charged today with intentionally damaging/destroying a commercial building by fire, the ATF reported in a news release. The charge carries a penalty of 5-20 years in prison for a conviction.

Wright was ordered held until a detention hearing at 1 p.m. on Monday.

ATF Special Agent Donald Dawkins said Wright indicated he was paid to start a fire that was reported at 5:25 a.m. Aug. 13 in a rear storage room of a cell phone store at East Jefferson and Drexel.

About 18 minutes after firefighters left, thinking they had extinguished the fire, they were called back at 7:14 a.m.

Firefighters were thwarted initially because the fire had remained hidden behind a wall, officials have said.

A wall of the commercial structure collapsed as firefighters were battling the blaze, critically injuring several Detroit firefighters. Officials have declined to reveal what type of incendiary was used.

Investigators identified Wright as a person of interest when they spoke with him on Tuesday, Dawkins said. Wright has at least two felony convictions. Dawkins, however, did not have details of the convictions.

“We had a lot of fantastic tips from the public,” he said when asked what led to Wright’s arrest.

The suspect was charged by federal agents because the federal statute carries a higher penalty than the Michigan arson statute, which has a 10-year maximum penalty, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a news release.

The situation is reminiscent of a November 2008 blaze that killed Detroit firefighter Walter Harris. In that case, Mario Willis was sentenced to 41-62 years in prison in May on a murder charge for paying Darian Dove $20 to start the fire. Dove pleaded guilty to murder and is serving a 17- to 30-year sentence.