Calif. FFs break through wall to rescue unconscious baby, man from apartment he set on fire

The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District was called to assist police officers after the man took the baby at knifepoint, and another child called 911


Amelia Davidson
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An infant is expected to recover after deputies say a man took the child at knifepoint, barricaded the two in a North Highlands apartment bathroom and set fire to the room Friday morning.

The incident began about 3:30 a.m. on the 3900 block of Madison Avenue when authorities say a man who was taking part in an informal child visitation refused to give up the 1-year-old to his ex-girlfriend and held a knife to the infant. Another female child, who was in the apartment, called 911 as an argument between the adults escalated.

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District personnel responded Friday after a man who was taking part in an informal child visitation refused to give up the 1-year-old to his ex-girlfriend, held a knife to the infant and started setting fires.
Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District personnel responded Friday after a man who was taking part in an informal child visitation refused to give up the 1-year-old to his ex-girlfriend, held a knife to the infant and started setting fires. (Photo/Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District)

According to Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sgt. Kionna Rowe, the man, who had a restraining order filed against him by the woman, had asked to see the children, and the woman allowed him to come to the apartment and visit with them. During the visitation, an argument ensued and the man took the child and ran to a bathroom and locked the door.

Deputies were alerted by the 911 call when they could hear a woman crying and dog barking in the background before the girl hung up the phone.

When deputies arrived, they tried talking with the man and through windows saw that the man was setting “small fires” inside the room, according to Rowe. Deputies at one point used an adjacent apartment to enter the room, pulling pieces of drywall off only for the man to put them back, Rowe said.

Once deputies saw smoke coming from the ground-floor apartment, they called for firefighters, Rowe said.

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District personnel responded and used the next-door apartment’s adjoining wall to ax their way through and fight the blaze. Crews found the man and boy unconscious inside.

The boy and suspect were taken to a hospital. Metro Fire spokesman Capt. Parker Wilbourn said the suspect and infant are expected to survive; Rowe said the woman and her older child were not seriously injured by the fire. Three puppies who lived in the apartment were also rescued.

The incident shook residents of the Alder Grove complex, some of whom were evacuated by deputies as deputies and firefighters swooped in. Seven or eight neighboring apartments were damaged by the blaze, authorities said.

“Somebody knocked on the door,” said Raul Ibarra, who lives on the opposite side of the unit where the incident unfolded. “And when we looked out we saw a cop walking around with an AR-15. Then someone knocked a second time and told us to get out. ... That’s when we walked toward the back and noticed the unit was on fire already.”

He and other neighbors were waiting about 7 a.m. to learn if their apartments were damaged by the blaze, but Ibarra said firefighters had told him several units in the two-story block were damaged.

“You think these things don’t happen, and then they happen in your building,” said Carid Servin was also waiting to re-enter her apartment. “You wake up to the news its happening in your building. It’s shocking.”

Detectives, who said the man hadn’t visited his children in nearly a year, were continuing to investigate the incident. Multiple charges were likely once the suspect recovers from his injuries, Rowe said. The fire is also being looked at by arson investigators.

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©2022 The Sacramento Bee.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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