Juveniles charged with Gerrity‚??s arson
February 18. 2013 6:17PM
Police allege that the juveniles set fire to wooden pallets and plastic milk cartons behind the shop. The fire extended to the building and damaged a produce cooler, Gerrity‚??s co-owner Joe Fasula said Tuesday.
During the investigation, police worked with Gerrity‚??s loss prevention officer Terry McDonnell who provided ‚??surveillance footage of the actors just before the fire was set.‚?Ě
The three juveniles, who are not named in Wednesday‚??s press release, allegedly returned on Feb. 14, ‚??entered the store and were caught shoplifting.‚?Ě Employees and McDonnell positively identified the juveniles from the arson investigation, the release states.
All three will face arson and retail theft charges through the Lackawanna County District Attorney‚??s Office. They were released to their parents after providing Scranton Fire Marshal Martin Monahan with details of their actions on Wednesday.
Other fires near Gerrity‚??s that occurred on Feb. 10 are still under investigation. Scranton Detective Capt. Al Leoncini indicated that those brush fires may be connected to the Gerrity‚??s arson, but no additional charges have been filed.
A Navy recruiter helped extinguish some of the flames when the fire broke out just after 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Carlos Martinez, of Scranton, was driving north on the North Scranton Expressway when he spotted the blaze outside the supermarket.
‚??Coming down the expressway, you couldn‚??t miss it. Unmistakable,‚?Ě Martinez said. ‚??A big fire like that draws your attention. It was obviously not a controlled burn, and it was touching the building.
‚??I was actually on the phone with my wife. I said, ‚??Hey, there‚??s a fire. I‚??ve got to go. I‚??ll call you back.‚??‚?Ě
Martinez then called 911, parked in the Gerrity‚??s lot, and went to the back of the store to help workers use about three fire extinguishers on the base of the fire.
‚??We got it put out pretty much before the fire department got here - the base of it - but the top of the building we couldn‚??t get... They got here so fast. Before we got the base out, they were already pulling up.‚?Ě
Martinez didn‚??t think twice about jumping in to help.
‚??In the Navy, we train for these kinds of situations. When they come up, you just deal with them,‚?Ě he said.
Crews from the Scranton Fire Department quickly doused the remains of the fire.
Covington Township resident Betty Jones, the night deli manager, said workers inside were largely unaware of the fire.
‚??Some people came in and said they saw fire in the back of the building,‚?Ě Jones said. ‚??It was outside. When we got out, someone went in to check the produce cooler and it was just getting smoky in there.‚?Ě
Scranton resident and Gerrity‚??s kitchen employee Michael Kinney said there was no smoke in the store when employees were told to leave.
Police instructed employee Gillyan Gowarty to make an announcement that the store was being evacuated. After making two announcements, Gowarty said she went through the aisles to encourage any patrons who remained to leave the store.
Scranton Fire Chief Tom Davis said Tuesday morning that the fire was ruled arson.
Fasula said the store was given a ‚??clean bill of health‚?Ě from city inspectors about two hours after the fire occurred. The store was still assessing damage to the produce cooler on Tuesday, but Fasula said that it had ‚??no impact on operations.‚?Ě The store receives shipments of fresh produce almost daily.
Gerrity‚??s is offering a reward for information about those responsible for Monday‚??s fire, but Fasula did not have specific details about the reward on Tuesday morning.