Authorities said Tuesday that the owner of a Philadelphia building that caught fire and fell this month, killing a city firefighter and hurting five other people, was charged with starting the fire.
Al-Ashraf Khalil, who is 28 years old, also lied to investigators looking into the June 18 fire, officials said. He later flew from the United States to Jordan, even though he told investigators he had no plans to leave the country. But Jordan wouldn't let him in, and he was caught Friday at an airport in New York City. Authorities said that they used handcuffs with the initials of the firefighter who died.
Khalil's lawyer, R. Emmett Madden, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his client had nothing to do with starting the fire. He also said that Khalil has been and will continue to help the investigation fully.
Lt. Sean Williamson, 51, was killed by the fire. He was stuck in the rubble and was pronounced dead at the scene. On Monday, he was laid to rest.
Authorities said that Khalil and another person, who hasn't been identified and is still at large, went into the restaurant's basement through doors that lead to the kitchen and started a fire there. They said this based on surveillance footage from outside the building. A short time after that, smoke is seen coming from the building.
#BREAKING: Law enforcement & ATF officials say they have arrested Al-Ashraf Khalil in connection with a fire in Fairhill that led to a building collapse that killed Philadelphia firefighter Lt. Sean Williamson @FOX29philly https://t.co/YWWNswipFe pic.twitter.com/VX1WqzGrqO— Kelly Rule (@KellyRuleTV) June 28, 2022
Authorities said that Khalil wore striped sweatpants and black-and-white slides when he went into the building and when he came back to the scene. Khalil allegedly told investigators at the scene that he was at his Philadelphia home when he got a call from a tenant in one of the apartments he rented out above the pizza shop. However, officials say they found that he actually took that call a few blocks from the scene.
Pictures from the arrest of Al-Ashraf Khalil at JFK over the weekend…handcuffs marked with Lt. Sean Williamson’s badge number and initials. Khalil remains in custody pic.twitter.com/FePnooLxhW— Kristen Johanson (KJ) (@KristenJohanson) June 28, 2022
Officials say that eight people were safely taken out of the apartments on the second floor and that the fire was put out in an hour. But not long after, the building fell and Williamson was stuck inside.
Authorities said Tuesday that Khalil could be put to death if he is found guilty.