Arson Suspect Arrested In Connection To Fire, Building Collapse That Killed Philadelphia Fire Lt. Sean Williamson

CBS Philly
CBS Philly

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

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

According to sources, the charges rising to homicide are still in play.

It’s alleged Khalil and a second unidentified suspect entered the pizza parlor that Khalil owned and set the place on fire.

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

Thiel spoke next to a picture of Williamson. He sent a strong message to the public.

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

Kahlil was found after he attempted to flee to Jordan and was denied entry.

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

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

A motive for the fire was not released.

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

“The luminous video surveillance recovered by investigators showed two suspects, minutes before the fire began in the early morning hours of June 18, walk behind a dumpster and enter the basement doors of the property at 300 West Indiana Avenue. The video surveillance further showed that about 20 minutes later, the two suspects leave the location. Shortly after which, smoke can be seen emanating from the direction of the building and immediately thereafter, flames can be seen on the video,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Thayer said.

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

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

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

Firefighters were able to get the flames under control within 15 minutes and they successfully evacuated all eight people living in the building. But an hour later, Williamson was one of six firefighters still inside making sure the fire was completely out when the building collapsed on top of them.

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

Officials announced in the hours after the incident the ATF and Fire Marshal’s office would be jointly investigating .

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

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

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

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