A Brooklyn landlord, Rafiqul Islam, found himself in police custody a month after being accused of setting fire to a building with residents still inside, following a contentious dispute over unpaid rent. The incident came to light after an investigation by the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).
Arson Amid Threats and Unpaid Bills
On November 3, 2023, authorities arrested Rafiqul Islam on charges of arson and attempted murder. The FDNY revealed that the landlord had allegedly ignited an interior staircase in a South Brooklyn apartment. The fire was ignited after Islam, infuriated by his second-floor tenants’ refusal to pay rent and vacate the premises, sought to take drastic measures to resolve the situation.
At the time of the fire, two adults and six children were inside the apartment, but they managed to escape unharmed. Interviews conducted with the fire victims unveiled a troubling pattern of threats issued by Islam. He had reportedly threatened to disconnect their gas and electricity services and ultimately resorted to threatening to burn down the house if his rent demands were not met.
Surveillance Footage Crucial in Identifying Suspect
The FDNY’s investigation also revealed the importance of surveillance footage in identifying the suspect. Video footage captured on the day of the incident depicted a “masked and hooded man” entering and exiting the building shortly before the first 911 call was made. Marshals dedicated four weeks to an extensive video canvas, ultimately confirming the identity of the suspect after discovering an image of Islam with his hood and mask down.
Islam now faces a litany of charges, including eight counts of attempted murder, assault, and arson. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. The occupants of the apartment did sustain minor injuries as a result of the fire but were subsequently treated at a local hospital in Jamaica.
The incident serves as a stark reminder of the escalating tensions and disputes between landlords and tenants, exacerbated by the economic strains of unpaid rent during challenging times. The alleged actions of Rafiqul Islam have not only resulted in criminal charges but have also underscored the critical role of surveillance technology in identifying and bringing suspects to justice.