CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn (PIX11/AP) – A 16-year-old pleaded not guilty Thursday to setting a fire in a Brooklyn high-rise the smoke from which trapped a pair of police officers in an elevator, killing one and critically injuring the other.
Marcell Dockery is accused of lighting a mattress ablaze on the 13th floor of the high-rise building at 2007 Surf Ave. in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn.
Responding Officer Dennis Guerra, 38, and a partner were overcome by smoke and carbon dioxide in the building’s elevator on April 6. They were both pulled unconscious from the building.
An eight-year veteran of the force, Guerra died three days later. He is survived by a wife and four children. Also hurt in the fire, Officer Rosa Rodriguez is still recovering.
Dockery had initially been charged with arson, assault and reckless endangerment. After Guerra’s death, the teen was also charged with murder.
Police said Dockery admitted to setting the mattress on fire because he was “bored.”
Dockery’s lawyer on Thursday said any statements made to detectives by the teen were coerced, calling the interrogation room a “chamber of hell.”
The president of the police union rejected claims by the teen’s lawyer that Dockery was forced into a confession.
“Don’t be fooled by the young face. His actions were serious. His actions were adult actions and his actions were life and death and in this case, it caused death,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the NYC Patrolman’s Benevolent Association.
Guerra’s passing spurred police officials in New York City to change the way officers respond to fires.
They’ll now require officers responding to structures on fire to take the stairs, according to an internal memo send to precincts April 18.
Deputy Chief Kim Royster said the new protocol replaces a memo distributed April 9, which instructed officers to use the elevator. Royster said the change came after consulting with fire officials in the wake of Guerra’s death.