FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 21, 2023
Brooklyn Landlord Indicted on Attempted Murder and Arson Charges
For Allegedly Setting Fire to Rental Property With 8 People Inside
Defendant Allegedly Threatened Family of Tenants Over Unpaid Rent at Cypress Hills Home
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn landlord has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with attempted murder, arson and related charges for allegedly setting fire to a Cypress Hills rental property he owned while a family of eight tenants, including six young children, slept inside. It is alleged the defendant had previously threatened to burn the building down as part of an ongoing dispute over unpaid rent. During the dispute, the defendant allegedly left a dead cat outside the family’s apartment.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly set fire to an occupied home, forcing an entire family, including six small children, to climb onto the roof and escape from the blaze in fear of their lives. It’s a miracle no one was killed or more seriously hurt. We will now seek to hold the defendant accountable for this allegedly deliberate and unconscionable act of arson.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Rafiqul Islam, 66, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 59-count indictment in which he is charged with first- and second-degree attempted murder, first- and second-degree attempted assault, second-degree attempted arson, third- and fourth-degree arson, first- and second-degree reckless endangerment, and endangering the welfare of a child. He was ordered held without bail and to return to court on January 31, 2024. The defendant faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top count.
The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the defendant is the owner of 212 Forbell Street, a two-story, two-family home in the Cypress Hills section of Brooklyn. Built in 1920, the building has a single entrance and no fire escape.
On September 26, 2023, at approximately 5:17 a.m., a tenant on the second floor noticed a burning smell from outside his family’s apartment. The tenant exited the apartment and saw smoke and flames coming up from the interior stairwell – the only point of egress within the building. As the fire spread, the entire family, including six children, ages 1 to 8, were forced to climb out of a back window and onto the roof. From there, two adult tenants were able to drop the children into the arms of neighbors waiting approximately 20 feet below. The two tenants then jumped off the roof the ground. One of the tenants called 911.
Firefighters arrived to find the building fully engulfed. Approximately 55 firefighters were needed to extinguish the blaze while family members were taken to Brookdale Hospital and treated for minor injuries and smoke inhalation.
Video surveillance obtained by FDNY Fire Marshals allegedly shows the defendant enter the building wearing a mask and carrying a bucket and a garbage bag. Additionally, video surveillance captured immediately before the tenant’s 911 call shows the defendant leaving the building. Witnesses were subsequently able to identify the defendant from the surveillance footage.
Police arrested the defendant on October 25, 2023. The defendant was allegedly angry that the tenants had stopped paying rent and refused to move out of the building, according to the investigation. Three prior complaints were lodged between the defendant and the tenants dating back to February 2023. They include accusations from the tenants that the defendant threatened to cut off the family’s power and, later, set fire to the building. The defendant also allegedly placed a dead cat in the hallway outside the family’s apartment.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Miguel Rodriguez, of the District Attorney’s Red Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Andrea Orlando, Deputy Chief of the Red Zone, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Karla Watson, Bureau Chief.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.