FORT SMITH (KFSM) - Fort Smith police have arrested a man in connection with an apartment complex arson fire from Tuesday night (Oct. 28).
Local firefighters responded at 6:52 p.m. to an apartment complex at 301 N. 18th St. in reference to a fire that began with three scooters on a breezeway and spread to the apartment building, according to the fire department. Battalion Chief Mark Talley said the building sustained about $32,500 in damage from the fire.
Authorities said no one was injured in the fire, but some residents on the second floor jumped from their balconies to escape the fire.
"I panicked, so I just had to jump down," said April Rodgers. "I lost [my] balance and I fractured my arm and I bit a hole through my tongue."
Rodgers said she was watching TV with her boyfriend when he discovered the apartment complex was on fire.
"I thank God that I am alive," said Rodgers. "I could have broken my leg by jumping down or [something] else bad could have happened to me. I could have hit my head on the concrete."
Crews had the fire under control within 30 minutes, and police soon afterward had a person of interest in custody, Talley said.
That person of interest was later identified by Fort Smith police as Leon Jackson, who was arrested on suspicion of arson, fleeing from police and violating parole.
Jackson's wife told police the suspect was angry at the residents living in Apartment 15 because they were selling crack cocaine to his mother. The woman tried to calm Jackson down, but he retrieved a gasoline can and said he was going to "handle it," she told police. Jackson then poured gasoline on three scooters and lit them on fire, she said.
The suspect and his wife caught on fire, but they were able to put out the flames, the woman told police. Jackson waited to make sure people could get out of the apartment before then running from the scene, she said.
Jackson was on parole due to a previous arson conviction, his wife said. His next court date is scheduled for Nov. 3.
"It should not have even got this far," said Rodgers. "[He] should have thought about other people staying in this apartment building. [There is] only one way up and one way down. Think before you do something."
Fire officials said four or five apartment units were damaged by the fire.