Two female juveniles arrested for first-degree arson in connection with the Friday, April 20 railroad tie fire in Miami.
MIAMI – Miami Police Chief Thomas Anderson confirmed Monday that two arrests were made on a charge of first-degree arson in connection with the railroad tie fire in Miami early Friday evening, April 20.
Clouds of thick black smoke rising into the northern skyline near downtown Miami could be seen for miles, marking the location of a raging railroad crosstie fire off of the intersection of A Street NE and Main Street Friday.
The Miami Fire Department responded with several units keeping hoses on the blazing tie pile and working to control damage and spreading to nearby homes and buildings.
Roof damage to the nearby former railway station building positioned by the rail spur that meets with Main Street could be seen Friday after firefighters extinguished a spread to that building.
An incident report from MPD investigating officer Dustin Hoffer also outlined significant heat damage from the fire to an occupied residence on A Street NE.
Firefighters worked through Saturday morning to extinguish the fire.
On Friday, Anderson relayed at the scene of the fire that information provided to MPD by a witness suggested the fire may have been an act of arson by a group of juveniles seen leaving the site. Anderson confirmed Monday that four female juvenile suspects were identified as leaving the scene and two were subsequently arrested on a charge of first-degree arson after questioning.
The names and identifying details of juvenile suspects are not released unless they are subsequently charged and tried as adults.
According to Hoffer's report, while on routine patrol at approximately 5:24 p.m. Friday, he spotted smoke and fire coming from the railroad tie pile and notified dispatch.
"As I was approaching the scene I was told by bystanders that four juveniles had just left the area westbound. I notified the other officers and requested the owner of Gold Diggers Pawn Shop to check his surveillance for the suspects," reads Hoffer's report.
Anderson confirmed Monday that the surveillance video in the report did capture the juvenile suspects at the site and leaving the scene.
The names of the four suspects were relayed to Hoffer by another MPD officer Friday who was informed by a boy riding his bike in the area, according to the report.
Hoffer said he remained at the scene for traffic control and while doing so noticed extensive damage to a nearby home.
"While I was on scene I noticed that the residence at 324 A St. NE had sustained extensive damage from the heat of the fire. I briefly spoke with a resident to 324 A St. NE when I initially arrived on scene and knew that they were in their residence when the fire was started," he states in his report.
The presence of an occupant during an intentional fire is of significance for a charge of first-degree arson.
Hoffer said after he was released from traffic duty he was informed of the possible whereabouts of two of the suspects by another juvenile in the area.
"I located (juvenile name redacted) and (juvenile name redacted) in the 100 block of 5th St. NE. I told the two juveniles to contact their parents and have them respond," Hoffer states in his report.
According to Hoffer, the grandmother of one of the suspects arrived first and after reading a Miranda Warning to the suspect in the presence of their grandmother, both female suspects agreed to speak with him.
The suspect with her grandmother relayed to Hoffer that she and another girl had been waiting for two of their friends near the railroad tracks. She said the girl she was with at the tracks told her to light a piece of paper on fire and that she placed a piece of paper on the gravel and burned it before extinguishing the fire with water.
That suspect also informed Hoffer that the two girls that she and her companion had been waiting for at the tracks were not present when the fire started, one of them being the girl she had been located with during Hoffer's interview with her.
Hoffer relays in his report that because the home at 324 A St. NE damaged by the fire was occupied at the time, the suspect with her grandmother who said she set the paper on fire was arrested for first-degree arson.
"I then contacted JSU and spoke with Kelly Clinton. Clinton advised me to release (juvenile name redacted) to (grandmother of juvenile arrested) on a signed promise to appear," Hoffer explains in his report.
Hoffer then went to the residence of a second suspect who was identified by the first juvenile who was arrested as her companion at the railroad tracks and who she claimed prompted her to set a piece of paper on fire near the tie pile.
In his report, Hoffer said he was aware of the location of the home having had previous dealings with the family of the second suspect.
Hoffer asked the second suspect and her father to speak with him outside and after reading her Miranda Warning both agreed to speak with him.
The second suspect corroborated that she and the first suspect had been at the railroad tracks awaiting two of their friends. However, the second suspect told Hoffer the first suspect wanted to spray a can of Old Spice Body Spray and light it on fire and did so creating a type of flamethrower that caught leaves on the ground on fire.
She then said she and the first suspect stomped the fire out and left the scene with their two other friends and that the first suspect discarded the can in a hole in the ground near the Dollar General Store. That store is located at 1132 N Main Street in Miami.
Hoffer then placed the second suspect under arrest on a charge of first-degree arson and after again contacting JSU and once more under advisement by Clinton, released the second suspect back to the custody of her father on a signed promise to appear.
An official report request was submitted to the Miami Fire Department but had not been released to MNR as of presstime Monday.
Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.