Man charged in canal arson - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Man charged in canal arson

Posted: Updated:
Brandon Burns Brandon Burns

Indianapolis - Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi announced an arrest in connection with a fire that destroyed a $28 million apartment complex on the downtown canal two weeks ago.

Brandon L. Burns, 23, is charged with two counts of arson, both B felonies, and one count of intimidation.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Burns's former girlfriend, Summer Bass, told police that Burns called her at 6:30 am on the morning of the fire and stated that he and some friends had started the fire at the Cosmopolitan on the Canal complex and that he was going to burn her house down too. Burns allegedly told Bass to turn on the television so she would see the fire on the news.

Bass told police that Burns was the father of her seven-month-old son, and that the couple had recently broken up. Burns was trying to get back together with Bass. Bass told police Burns called her numerous times and made threats towards her, her baby and her new boyfriend.

Another acquaintance told police that she saw Burns on the afternoon of the fire. She said he looked "horrible" and when she asked him what was wrong, she told police that he referred to starting a fire. Later on she reported the information to police.

When police interviewed Burns about the fire, he denied having had any involvement and told officers he was at the Citgo gas station at the time of the fire. Police did not see any sign of Burns on the surveillance tape, however.

Police interviewed Burns a second time and told police he was with a homeless man named Matt the night of the fire. Burns told detectives that he and Matt were walking along the canal when they went inside the construction site. Burns said Matt gave him a cigarette and asked to borrow a lighter. Burns said he went outside to smoke the cigarette; then Matt came outside and told Burns that he had started a bonfire. According to the affidavit, the two then parted ways.

However, police say Burns's story did not check out. A man named Matt who matched the description Burns gave police turned up at the hospital the next day. Matt told police he knew Burns from the Central Library as "Monster." But Matt said he did not see Burns that night, and in fact, had checked into the Wheeler Mission with two friends. The morning of the fire, Matt told police he saw Burns at the library. Burns asked Matt and his friends to join him on one of the library's higher floors and pointed at the smoke from the canal fire. He allegedly told Matt and his friends, "I did that."

Police checked out Matt's story and interviewed his friends and found that they spent the night at Wheeler Mission.

Prosecutor Carl Brizzi says this is just the beginning of the investigation. He said they wanted to get Burns charged as soon as possible because they feel Burns is dangerous.

A five-gallon gas can was spotted near the canal at the time of the fire. The crime lab will check it for DNA.

The Cosmopolitan on the Canal project was a few months away from completion when fire gutted most of the complex. The fire broke out in the early morning hours of March 12th. It burned for much of the day and it was over 24 hours before investigators could start sifting through debris to determine the cause.

Because of the extent of the damage, investigators from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) were brought in to assist. Investigators concluded that the fire was intentionally set.

Alex Moore knows Burns and doesn't believe him capable of the arson. "He's one of those people who makes the threats but doesn't actually act on them," Moore said. He's surprised at the charges. "More so he intimidates and scares someone into doing whatever he wants them to do."

"He's got anger problems but doing something like that; I've not known him to do this. It's shocking to me," said Alexandra Stephenson, a friend of Burns's former girlfriend.

Powered by WorldNow