Love Stinks, Kinda Like that New Burning Car Smell
An arsonist in New York torched a parking structure along with 135 vehicles on Monday, September 17. Avon Stephens, 23, was arrested and booked for starting the blaze. He admitted igniting the fire at the Kings Plaza Shopping Center. Stephens said he takes issue with the amount of casual sex that was taking place in the parking garage.
The culprit was caught on camera gesturing his middle finger towards the blaze as he fled the scene at 8:25 a.m. A four-page complaint stated Stephens “was motivated to start the fire by his belief that others used the parked vehicles for sexual activity.” There will be no lover’s rendezvous on Stephens watch. “Stephens also acknowledged that he knew he was being recorded on surveillance cameras and apologized for starting the fire.”
Stephens was held without bail. His appearance with Brooklyn Federal Court was peculiar to say the very least. Stephens held his hands over his mouth, gave one-word responses and declined to make eye contact with the judge. The prosecution was set for federal court because the damaged vehicles were considered inter-state property. “I’m sorry. I apologize,” Williams told reporters as he was escorted from the precinct.
“The defendant put several lives intentionally at risk,” stated Assistant U.S. Attorney Temidayo Aganga-Williams. Stephens has an extensive history with NYPD. He has an armed robbery conviction in 2014 and has some outstanding bench warrants.
Authorities reported local car dealerships used the lot to store cars before they hit the market. Stephens torched one parked vehicle that ultimately aroused flames which spread like wildfire throughout the entire structure.
“By his own admission, he does not have a stable home to return to,” said Aganga-Williams. Stephens frequented the garage. He was a frequent dweller of the structure as he sought shelter. The 23-year-old would bunker down in tight quarters or parked cars until mall security chased him out, a police source said.
The morning of the fire, Stephens was confronted by a mall security guard. Stephens ignored the guard as he headed in the direction of the second level where the Mercedes-Benz was stored. Video footage showed Stephens hop into a parked car right before it was engulfed in flames. These flames sparked the bulbous blaze.
250 firefighters responded to the scene. The enormous inferno injured six civilians and 22 firefighters. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said “working under those conditions with this amount of smoke and this amount of heat, wearing what they wear, one can only imagine what they went through.” The fire took well over two hours to subdue.
The conflagration forced Kings Plaza to close for the rest of the day. The raging fire irritated many onlookers and potential shoppers as they waited outside the closed doors.
Patron, Elise Duran, was not happy with the result,“It’s like a disappointment. I come here to spend time,” said Elise Duran. “Now, I have to wait outside.”