New York Times
April 11, 2014


Murder Charge for Teenager in Fire That Killed an Officer

A teenager who the authorities say set a fire in the hallway of a Brooklyn high-rise last week was charged with second-degree murder on Friday, two days after the death of one of the two New York City police officers who were critically injured in the blaze.

The teenager, Marcell Dockery, 16, who was arrested on Monday, told the police he had set fire to a mattress on the 13th floor of his apartment building because he was bored.

The two officers, Dennis Guerra, 38, and Rosa Rodriguez, 36, were the first to arrive last Sunday at the scene, on Surf Avenue in Coney Island, and took an elevator up to the 13th floor. When the doors opened, heavy smoke quickly overcame them. Firefighters later found them unconscious near the elevator. 

On Wednesday, Officer Guerra, a father of four with eight years on the force, succumbed to his injuries, becoming the first police officer to die in the line of duty in more than two years. Officer Rodriguez, who also has four children, remained in critical condition on Friday with the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and severe smoke inhalation.

Mr. Dockery was initially charged with arson, reckless endangerment and assault. If convicted of second-degree murder, he could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison. He is being held in protective custody at Rikers Island, and was not in court on Friday.

“We will bring the defendant to justice for these terrible and horrific crimes,” Kenneth P. Thompson, the Kings County district attorney, said in a statement.

Mr. Dockery’s lawyer, Jesse A. Young, said he could not comment on the specifics of the murder charge. He said his client could face further charges for injuries sustained by Officer Rodriguez.

The fire prompted the Police Department to issue mandatory protocols for officers responding to building fires, the first effort to codify those procedures.

Derrick Nunnally contributed reporting.