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Firefighters Surprise Burgler When They Discover Home Invasion

Firefighters Surprise Burgler When They Discover Home Invasion

Boston Globe via YellowBrix

September 24, 2010

CHELSEA – There may not have been fire in a Chelsea apartment yesterday morning, but firefighters responding to a call of smoke found something else.

Firefighters who arrived at a Lafayette Avenue apartment complex just after midnight yesterday came upon a home invasion in progress in the same apartment. Police responded, and one of the suspects was arrested and charged with stealing more than $40,000 from the apartment. Police are looking for a second suspect.

“I think it really caught the bad guys off guard,’’ said Chelsea police Captain Keith Houghton. “It caught the firefighters off guard, obviously.’’

Houghton gave the following account: One of the residents headed to a trash compactor outside the complex when he was approached by two males, one with a gun. The men demanded his keys and his apartment number. One of them stood with the resident, while the man with the gun headed to the apartment.

There, he bound a second victim with a computer cord and started to loot the apartment of cash, Houghton said.

At that exact time, firefighters arrived for a report of smoke in the apartment. The suspect who stood on guard was spooked and fled toward a silver car, and the resident told firefighters of a crime in progress. Police quickly headed to the apartment.

A short chase ensued, and the suspect in the apartment jumped out the third floor window. He was arrested outside. The suspect, Charnne Augustin, 25, of Chelsea was arraigned in Chelsea District Court on charges including armed home invasion and possession of a firearm. He pleaded not guilty.

Houghton said police found $10,000 in Augustin’s possession. Later, another $30,000 was found in a bag in the hallway.

Houghton could not describe the relationship between the victims and the attackers, but said the amount of money “is leading us to believe this was a targeted robbery; not many people keep 40 grand in their apartment.’’

The complex is known to police for past reports of crime. The source of the smoke was never determined, but Houghton said that officers smelled marijuana in the apartment, which might have led to the call to the Fire Department.

It was not the first time that firefighters led police to Augustin. Last year, firefighters in Dorchester found him unconscious. When they turned him over, they allegedly saw a loaded .38-caliber handgun. After his arrest he posted $5,000 cash bail, and the case was pending.

That bail was revoked yesterday and he was ordered held on an additional $250,000 on the new charges, according to Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.