Arson suspect arrested in connection with blaze, building collapse that killed Philadelphia Fire Department Lt. Sean Williamson – CBS Philly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A building owner has been arrested and charged with arson in a fire and collapse that killed Philadelphia Fire Department Lt. Sean Williamson. Al-Alshraf Khalil’s arrest comes less than two weeks after the deadly collapse in North Philadelphia.

Khalil is charged with arson and lying to federal investigators about his whereabouts at the time of the fire. Court documents allege Khalil told federal agents he was not in the 3rd Street and Indiana Avenue area despite surveillance video and other evidence placing him there.

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According to sources, charges up to and including homicide are still pending.

It is alleged that Khalil and a second unidentified suspect entered the pizzeria that Khalil owned and set it on fire.

“The arson killed Lt. Williamson,” Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Thiel spoke alongside a photo of Williamson. He sent a strong message to the public.

“If you think about it, think carefully because you can’t run and you can’t hide. This team will find you,” Thiel said.

Kahlil was found after trying to flee to Jordan and was refused entry.

At JFK International Airport in New York, U.S. Marshals were waiting for Khalil.

Khalil was arrested and put in handcuffs bearing Williamson’s initials and badge number.

The cause of the fire has not been disclosed.

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On Monday, the city saluted Williamson as he was laid to rest.

“Light CCTV recovered by investigators showed two suspects, minutes before the fire began in the early morning hours of June 18, walking behind a dumpster and entering through the property’s basement doors at the 300 West Indiana Ave. CCTV further showed that approximately 20 minutes later, the two suspects leave the scene.Soon after, smoke can be seen emanating from the direction of the building and immediately after, flames can be seen on the video,” said First Assistant US Attorney Nelson Thayer.

Sources say Tuesday’s filing of charges is just the first step in what will be a lengthy investigation.

Sources say authorities recovered surveillance video that turned the investigation late last week into a criminal case.

Williamson, a 27-year veteran of the force, who was laid to rest Monday, was part of a team that responded to a fire on the 300 block of West Indiana Avenue in North Philadelphia on June 18.

Firefighters managed to bring the flames under control within 15 minutes and they managed to evacuate the eight people living in the building. But an hour later, Williamson was one of six firefighters still inside making sure the fire was fully extinguished when the building collapsed on top of them.

Crews rescued five of them from the rubble, but Williamson was not.

Officials announced within hours of the incident that the ATF and the Office of the Fire Marshal would be jointly investigating.

Thiel says the department will remember him as one of the best.

“It should be obvious after seeing the hundreds, probably thousands of people who came through here this morning, that he knew how to do his job. He was truly one of our best,” Thiel said.

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CBS3’s Joe Holden, Kerri Corrado and Ross DiMattei contributed to this report.


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