City police quizzing suspects in arson Fifth child dies. Arson may be tied to domestic fight.

July 08, 1992|By Michael James and Roger Twigg | Michael James and Roger Twigg,Staff Writers Staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this report.

A fifth child, 12-year-old Antoine Lucas, died at 12:05 a.m. today at Johns Hopkins Hospital from injuries suffered in a fire set at his East Baltimore home yesterday.

Baltimore police, meanwhile, were questioning several suspects today in a fatal fire, which killed four other children yesterday.

The blaze started when an arsonist broke in and doused the floor with a flammable liquid. The fire was set about 8:30 a.m. and spewed thick black smoke that trapped residents in the house in the 2400 block of E. Eager St.

Agent Doug Price, a city police spokesman, said Eastern District police officers were called to the home Friday to investigate a domestic fight that may have become the motive for the blaze.

Thirteen people lived in the home, police said. Some of the people involved in the domestic fight were suspects in the arson.

One suspect was identified by a child rescued from the home. Police said the man was pointed out in a crowd of spectators.

"It's become more complex than our investigators originally figured," Agent Price said. "They've changed directions a couple of times."

The dead included Damien Cook, 2 months, who firefighters carried from the home in a charred plastic baby seat, a sight that horrified neighbors watching yesterday as fire destroy the home.

Also killed were Gregory Cook, 1; Takia Cook, 2; and Russell Williams, 5.

Deon Cook, 3, remained in critical condition in the pediatric intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. William Lucas, 8, was in fair and stable condition today at the Maryland Shock-Trauma Center, as was William Cook, 29, identified as father of some of the children.

All seven children are siblings, fire officials said. Tonya Lucas, 29, identified as mother of the children, escaped the fire and was not injured.

Three firefighters received minor injuries battling the blaze.

Firefighters said they entered the blazing house and found the children in the pitch-black smoke. The children's faces were covered with soot, firefighters said.

When firefighters arrived, six children were trapped on the second floor. Heat was so overwhelming a firefighter on a ladder could not enter a second-story window.

Lt. James D. Rubeling, 40, a 13-year veteran of Engine Company 24, led three firefighters in through the first floor and up the stairs.

"It was pitch black on the second floor. We physically got down on our hands and knees and crawled around feeling for the bodies," Lieutenant Rubeling said. "You feel for them [children first in the beds and then in the corners and closets."

Those watching the fire lamented about how the neighborhood has fallen to violence, drugs and domestic disputes.

A 2-year-old boy was wounded Monday night by a stray bullet on North Collington Avenue, about two blocks from the fire.

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