ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A St. Paul family describes themselves as 'devastated' one day after losing a two year old child to a fire, then having the boy's uncle arrested in his death.
St. Paul police arrested the 27-year-old uncle for allegedly starting Thursday's fast-burning house fire that killed 2-year-old Amir Coleman. The boy was discovered on the second floor of the burned-out home at 839 Blair Avenue.
"Witnesses reported that when they first noticed the fire it was on the porch and moments later it was up the front of the house so that was fast moving fire which is an indicator that an accelerant may have been used," says St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard.
Relatives have identified the man as the little boy's uncle and say he had been in the home before the fire started Thursday afternoon. A search of the man's criminal record indicates a pattern of criminal domestic abuse and violating no-contact and restraining orders.
Family members say he was arrested at Regions Hospital while visiting relatives who had been injured in the blaze.
KARE 11 is not identifying the suspect as he has not been charged.
Authorities say the man has been booked into jail on possible homicide and arson charges. Evidence collected by investigators, including a gas container, has been sent to the crime lab for analysis. Results should come back within a week.
"It's devastating," says Jeff Branson, Amir Coleman's great uncle, a different relative than the man who was arrested. "He was an innocent kid and to see this happen and to see him go like this is a tragedy."
Fire crews arrived at the home on Blair Avenue just after 2:30 p.m. Thursday and found three adults and two children suffering from fire-related injuries.
All were rushed to Regions Hospital, where Amir was pronounced dead.
Two of the victims, a 4-year-old child and a male in his 20s, jumped out of second story windows to escape the raging fire.
A neighbor said he ran over to the burning home and yelled to the man to throw his child. The man jumped out of the home instead.
Fire chief Tim Butler said the 4-year-old boy and the man were injured after they jumped from a second-story window to escape the raging fire.
Paramedics took the father and child to Regions. Both suffered burns. The child showed signs of smoke inhalation.
The Union representing the City of Saint Paul Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 21, has established a memorial fund benefiting the Family of Amir Coleman. Besides losing Amir, the family home was also heavily damaged in the fire. Amir's Aunt works in the Saint Paul Fire Department Administration and firefighters say she and her family will be kept in Local 21's thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
Anyone wishing to donate to this fund can contact Alliance bank at 651-229-0070.
Donations can also be mailed to or dropped off at Alliance Bank of St. Paul
55 E. Fifth St., Suite 115
St. Paul, MN 55101
(Copyright 2010 by KARE and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)