CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Police Bomb and Arson section has identified someone with whom they want to talk about a string of fires someone has been setting in Hegewisch.
A man of an unknown age has been spotted on camera wearing blue jeans and a sweatshirt with the word “guard” written on the back.
Sgt. Richard Sliva of Bomb and Arson Section spoke at a virtual CAPS meeting for Beat 433 in the South Chicago (4th) Police District Tuesday evening. He emphasized that the person in question is not a suspect.
‘What we want to do is talk to this person. We want to find out why he was in the area at that time. And this is the person we’re seeing to identify,” Sliva said. “We’re not staying he started the fire. We’re not saying he had anything to do with the fire. But he was in the area of the fire at the time of the fire.”
He said an ongoing investigation has been under way over the past couple of days in which investigators have been collecting surveillance and Ring camera video – as well as canvassing and trying to talk to as many people in the neighborhood as possible.
Sliva said an informational bulletin would also soon be released.
The Bomb and Arson Section also wants anyone within eight blocks of the fires to check their security camera footage for up to two hours before each fire started – and to notice any cars or people coming or going as they review the footage.
It was also advised that neighbors put trash bins inside and flood their alleyways with as much light as possible.
Early on Easter Sunday, garbage cans were set on fire in neighborhood alleys and ended up spreading to garages and at least one car parked inside a garage, as well as utility poles. Neighbors reported loud bangs, like either gunshots or fireworks, before watching the alleys catch on fire – and some lost internet service and power.
“I felt how hot it was and there was smoke everywhere, and I couldn’t breathe, and I was coughing and choking,” MarySue Simons told CBS 2’s Marissa Parra on Sunday.
In the alley between Buffalo and Burley avenues from 133rd Street south to 134th Street, flaming garbage cans melted like candles – taking several of Simons’ late father’s possessions with them.
At the same time, the same horror was transpiring in the alley between Brandon and Baltimore avenues at the same latitude just two and a half blocks away.
More fires were reported early on Monday morning. Cellphone video captured flames in an alley next to a house in the 13500 block of South Buffalo Avenue just after midnight. Police confirmed there were multiple fires set Sunday into Monday.
A fire also erupted in a vacant building, last known as Tom’s Truck Stop Restaurant, 2701 E. 130th St.
“Having these fires so recent, I mean, one after the other after the other after the other,” Jodi Thorton, whose relatives live were a garage fire started, told CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar. “We’re calling for more police out here to look out.”
Police sources told CBS 2 on Monday that the Hegewisch neighborhood is understaffed. At last check, only one patrol car was assigned to Hegewisch Monday for the third watch.
But District Cmdr. Robert Rubio said at the CAPS meeting that the area has been saturated with police in response to the fires, and said officers had talked to numerous community members.
“We have a lot of resources in the area,” he said. “I think the resources we put in place were vital.”
Anyone with information on these fires may call the Bomb and Arson Section at (312) 746-7618. Sliva noted that Detective Baci is in charge of the investigation for the section.