SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Schenectady city officials held a press conference on Friday to announce the arrest of a man they claim is responsible for a string of arsons in the city.
The mayor, the police chief, the fire chief and the public safety commissioner came together to announce the arrest in connection to five fires in the Mont Pleasant section of the city. Authorities said the person responsible for all of them is 22-year-old Derrick Rodriguez.
He was arraigned Friday morning and pleaded not guilty to five counts of arson; two of which are felony charges.
Latrice Malone lives next door to one of the homes that was set on fire.
“I have a six-month-old infant, and I have a 9-year-old daughter, and my daughter was very scared,” she said. “My first impression was to get out of the house and call the fire department.”
Authorities said neighbors provided a vague description, and a routine police stop helped lead them to the suspect.
Court papers said Rodriguez began his string of arsons on April 21. He’s accused of setting fire to a mattress, a boat and a large garage dumpster on or near Crane Street. Two days later, authorities said he started a blaze at 1343 Sixth Avenue, and then, less than 10 minutes later, he’s accused of starting another fire at 1026 Third Avenue.
Both houses were vacant.
“These fires are very dangerous,” Fire Chief Raymond Senecal said. “We’ve had fires where firefighters are injured. We had occupied dwellings, exposures to these buildings that were on fire that were damaged.”
City officials said the arrest was a result of the city’s arson task force, which is made up of the police department, the fire department and ATF. As for the evidence that ties Rodriguez to the arsons or a possible motive, authorities would not answer either of those questions.
“I’m not going to discuss any matters of evidence, confessions, video footage, physical evidence recovered at the scene, and things of that nature,” Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said. “That jeopardizes not only our investigation, but the DA’s prosecution.”