LACKAWANNA, N.Y. -- New images of a potential suspect have been released and a reward is being offered for help finding the person or persons responsible for an arson in Lackawanna that hurt several people in April.
Crime Stoppers Buffalo and the Muslim Public Affairs Council have boosted their reward up to $11,000 ($10,000 from MPAC) in the case of the earlly morning April 22nd fire at 97 Ingham Avenue. Seven people were seriously hurt, including two young children.
Chief James Michel of the Lackawanna Police Department says that the images from the surveillance video show that "The person on the bicycle may be a person of interest. May just have been somebody riding home from the grocery store with bag of groceries. We don't know. But an accelerant was used and there is the possibility that the person on the bicycle had a gas can."
Michel has said previously “This fire began in a rear entranceway to the multi-unit home, trapping the Soliman family in their rear upper apartment and forcing the parents and their 6-month-old, three-year-old and four-year-old to be rescued from a second story window.”
The children's parents were also seriously injured. The mother, Claudia, had to be put into a medically induced coma, and was sent to the Erie County Medical Center Burn Unit. The father, Khaled, had a broken foot and a fractured spine.
It's also clear from this press conference with police and sheriff's investigators at the Erie County DA's office that the investigation has intensified. That is since members of the Muslim community voiced concerns this spring that it was not enough of a priority for local law enforcement. There is now a concerted effort with his message from Yaser Soliman of the Muslim Public Affairs Council "Someone out there knows who did this. And our message to that person is this...please do what is right and make our community a safer place."
It's extremely personal for Soliman who saw loved ones endangered that night. "I knew that my nephew and sister in law were still up in the building so it was incredibly difficult and then I had to watch my sister in law get resuscitated in front of me and so was my nephew."
Officials say federal law enforcement agencies were consulted but are not directly involved at this point. But District Attorney Flynn notes there is the added factor that 15 days before the fire a burning phone book was tossed on the building's front porch. 2 on Your Side asked "Could this be prosecuted as a hate crime?
Flynn responded "If the evidence shows that it is...it could be. Right now I have no indication that it is."
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office released the below photo captured on surveillance video of a person riding a bike near 97 Ingham.
If you have information leading to the arrest or indictment of the person(s) responsible for this incident, you are asked to call Crime Stoppers Buffalo at 716-867-6161.