A 16-year-old is now facing arson, assault and reckless endangerment charges in connection with a Coney Island high-rise fire Sunday that left two city police officers critically hurt. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Fire trapped Elly Torres inside her apartment with her 7-year-old grandson and her brother, Freddy, who is a paraplegic.
"Oh my God. Terrified," Freddy Torres said. "The door was just popping. Like, the medal was popping, popping."
"Flames was shooting up," Elly Torres said. "The peephole busted out, and it was actually like a torch blowing inside my house. You could hear it whistling."
The fire started just after noon Sunday on the 13th floor of a high rise on Surf Avenue.
Police say 16-year-old Marcell Dockery intentionally set the fire in the Unity Towers, where he lived.
Elly Torres said she's known Dockery since he was a baby, and he actually warned her about the fire.
"He kicked the door to warn me," she said. "I pulled the door open, but it was too late. It was engulfed all the way to the ceiling. That would have to mean leaving my brother and the baby behind, which, that was not going to happen."
The burning mattress was right outside their door. The heat was so intense, it burned the paint right off the walls. The damage actually dissipates as you walk down the hallway to the next apartment, but the smoke covered the entire floor. The officers who were injured were 20 yards down the hall and 10 yards around the corner.
Police officers Dennis Guerra and Rosa Rodriguez were the first to respond but barely made it out of the elevator. Firefighters found the 36-year-old female and 38-year-old male unconscious and unresponsive, pulled them out, then crawled to those trapped inside their apartments to make sure no one else was injured.
"He was on the floor with, like, soot coming out of his nose, out of his mouth," Freddy Torres said.
"Quick response. That meant everything," Elly Torres said. "Another minute or two, we would actually wouldn't have been able to breathe in here."
Dockery also faces an unrelated charge. A 60-year-old woman saw his picture on TV and told police that he approached her and said, "If you don't give me everything, I'm going to cut you." Investigators say he got away with $10 and now faces a robbery charge.