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Police Make Arrests in Connection With Local Fires

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
January 12, 2016
Posted in: Crime and Police News

McKeesport police have made arrests in connection with two fires they say were deliberately set.

City police said Sean Michael Gray, 27, of Ohio Avenue, Glassport was stopped by officers Thursday on Perry Street, near the scene of a fire in a vacant house in the 300 block of Atlantic Avenue in the city's lower 10th Ward. Gray has been arrested and charged with two counts of arson.

In a separate incident, McKeesport police have charged David Whatley, 21, of the 1000 block of McCleary Street with multiple counts of arson in connection with a New Year's Day fire on Cleveland Street.

The fire in lower 10th Ward was reported Thursday afternoon, police said. When firefighters arrived, the building was fully engulfed in flame, and witnesses told police that a white male matching Gray's description was spotted leaving the scene.

Police said that McKeesport firefighters and the Allegheny County fire marshal's office determined that the fire was deliberately set. Gray was arrested and charged with arson. Court officials said a preliminary hearing has not yet been scheduled.

In the New Year's Day incident, city firefighters were dispatched at 2:37 a.m. Jan. 1 to an abandoned house at 2503 Cleveland Street to find the building fully engulfed in flame, and the fire was spreading to neighboring properties.

Police said "quick work by the residents of the neighborhood" had alerted residents of an adjoining house to evacuate. Several fire departments from neighboring communities were dispatched to assist McKeesport firefighters.

A house at 2501 also was damaged, but no injuries were reported, police said. With assistance from the Allegheny County Fire Marshal’s Office, police determined the fire was intentionally set.

Police said Whatley was identified as a suspect after an investigation and was brought to the police station for an interview. On Jan. 7, he was arrested and charged with three counts of arson endangering property, one count of arson endangering a person, one count of risking a catastrophe and one count of aggravated arson. Police said he is currently housed in the Allegheny County Jail awaiting his preliminary hearing.

Originally published January 12, 2016.

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