Suspected arsonist jumps to his death fleeing police

June 21, 2011 6:00:13 PM PDT
The search for a suspected serial arsonist in southwest Houston may be over. That suspect may be dead. Just before midnight, people inside an apartment building on Bateswood near Memorial heard a loud noise. That was the start of a long night.

"I saw flames come out the side and it looked like it was right there," said apartment resident Johnny Mikeasky.

At least half a dozen cars were set on fire. The flames spread to the building exterior. A woman outside sounded the alarm, banging on doors in the smoke and fire.

"That's when it started to spread," said witness Chevy Bankston. "Everyone was safe, but it was just horrible."

As it turns out, arson investigators had the arson suspect under surveillance at the time because of the vehicle he was driving -- a dually pickup, the same kind seen in surveillance pictures linked to as many as 30 arson fires.

Arson called in fire suppression, then chased the suspect along with police. Minutes later, he stopped his truck on an overpass and jumped.

"Down approximately 70 feet," said John Cannon with the Houston Police Department. "He was pronounced dead a short time later."

The truck is now in evidence storage. According to investigators, the now dead man was considered a consistent suspect in the string of fires in southwest Houston. But that he could be positively linked to those fires, says Executive Assistant Fire Chief Rick Flanagan, is for now an open question.

"First, we have to go back and look at all of the fires," he said. "We don't have a suspect to speak to any longer, with the end result of what happened last night."

The investigation continues. The dead suspect is described only as a 28-year-old African-American male. His identity has not been released. And though the man they were following is now dead, the Houston Fire Department is not yet ready to call the case of the southwest Houston arsonist closed.

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