2 Chicago firefighters escape after man lures them into home doused in gasoline, pulls knife on them

A battalion chief and lieutenant were unharmed after fellow firefighters broke a window and got them out of the Auburn Gresham home, police said. The man had once been convicted of murder.

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Firefighters were called to a home in Auburn Gresham on Wednesday where a homeowner had reported a garage fire. The homeowner asked two firefighters to check on a gas smell in his basement, and when they entered the home, he pulled a knife on them, police say. The man was arrested.

Firefighters were called to a home in Auburn Gresham on Tuesday where a homeowner had reported a garage fire. The homeowner asked two firefighters to check on a gas smell in his basement, and when they entered the home, he pulled a knife on them, police say. The man was arrested.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Police have arrested a South Side man who they say lured two firefighters into his home, where the floor was covered with gasoline.

Other firefighters smashed a window to rescue the battalion chief and lieutenant. They were not injured. Two knives and a loaded gun were recovered, police said.

The man was convicted nearly 20 years ago of murdering a rap producer in Austin, according to police.

Two firefighters who entered this Auburn Gresham home were confronted by the homeowner holding a knife. After a struggle, the firefighters alerted colleagues who rescued them. The firefighters were unhurt.

A Chicago Fire Department lieutenant and battalion chief who entered this Auburn Gresham home were confronted by the homeowner holding a knife. After a struggle, they alerted colleagues who rescued them.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Court records show the man was sentenced to 35 years in prison for murder and an additional six years to be served consecutively for attempted murder. Details of the case were not immediately available.

Court records show that he was granted a new trial in 2019 after arguing that he was not effectively represented by his lawyer, who he claimed dissuaded him from testifying on his own behalf and did not pursue his claim of self-defense in the case.

A judge ordered his bail set at $450,000 after vacating the conviction and the man was released on bond, records show.

A date for a new trial has not been set.

The battalion chief and lieutenant responded about noon Tuesday to a car fire in the garage of the man’s home in the 7700 block of South Marshfield Avenue in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, according to a police report.

After the fire was put out, the resident told the two that he smelled gas in his basement and asked if they could check on it.

“You go first,” Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said the chief told the man, who grabbed a battery-operated screw gun and removed a solid wooden board blocking the basement entry.

Once in the basement, the firefighters said they did not smell gas and saw the man “quickly” retreating upstairs, Langford said. They followed, and at the top of the staircase were confronted with the man holding a large knife. They detected the strong odor of an accelerant.

They also saw the entrances to the home were boarded up so they could not get out.

“He ordered them back in the basement,” Langford said. Instead, the firefighters began struggling with the suspect. Eventually, the battalion chief was able to get on the radio and alert the crews outside and police.

Firefighters broke a window, jumped in and pulled the two firefighters to safety. The man, meanwhile, barricaded himself in a bathroom with two knives and an empty gun holster. The man said he “wanted to harm himself,” but firefighters broke down the door, and he was taken into custody, the police report said.

Gasoline covered the floor inside the home. Police found a loaded gun in “plain view,” and the basement appeared to be filled with hoses or wires, according to police and Langford.

The man was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park. No charges have been announced.

“It was very scary,’’ Langford said. “It’s speculation that this individual was trying to lure our people into a situation where they could be trapped, and he was preparing to light the accelerant with them in the basement.”

The windows of the home were covered, and there were several dents on the door. A metal door with a sticker that said “Don’t shoot, I want to grow up” lay along a black metal gate.

Langford said the two firefighters thought the garage fire was suspicious in origin.

The garage of the home was severely burned, and a car inside had sustained damage from the fire. Burned wood was scattered along the side of the garage in the backyard.

A woman who has lived on the block for more than 30 years and didn’t want to be identified, said she saw police cars and ambulances stopping at the house.

Mary Smith, 90, recently moved into her home a few houses down and was on her way to church when she saw law enforcement officials on her block.

“You’d be scared to walk out,” she said in response to the attack on the firefighters.

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