- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A homeless man has been arrested on charges that he set a fire that destroyed a six-story apartment complex under construction, prosecutors said Thursday.

Brandon L. Burns, 23, faces preliminary felony charges of arson and intimidation in the March 12 blaze, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said. Burns, who was being held at Marion County Jail, did not yet have an attorney, prosecutor’s office spokesman Mario Massillamany said. No bond had been set.

Brizzi said several people heard Burns say he had set the fire at the Cosmopolitan on the Canal complex in downtown Indianapolis. Authorities also said Burns told a former girlfriend that he and some friends started the fire and that he was going to burn down her house, too.

One of those who overheard him, J. Matthew Zollman, told police that Burns boasted, “Look what I did, look at my work,” as they watched the fire from a downtown library.

Burns denied being at the scene of the blaze, but surveillance video showed that he was not at a downtown gas station at the time he had claimed, Brizzi said. Burns later admitted he had been in the apartment building the night of the fire but said Zollman had started the fire using Burns’ lighter.

Brizzi said gasoline was used to set the fire and the weather created a wind tunnel on the canal that accelerated the blaze. He said a gas can found several blocks from the fire was being processed for DNA evidence.

Despite the arrest, Brizzi said the investigation was ongoing.

“In fact, we believe this is just the beginning,” he said, adding that investigators were looking into why security at the fully insured apartment complex had been pulled after February.

The fire caused $28 million in damage and spread to the adjacent headquarters of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, causing smoke and water damage.

The owner and developer of the gutted complex has said it planned to rebuild. Jerry Collins, president of Flaherty & Collins Properties, has said the company had been taking reservations from prospective tenants, and the first of the 218 luxury apartments were to open in May.

A message seeking comment was left Thursday at Collins’ office.

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