A man died after jumping from the window of his fire-engulfed apartment Friday night and another man awaits likely murder charges after being arrested in connection with the blaze.
By the time fire crews arrived at 1500 Park Av. about 10:45 p.m. Friday, two residents had jumped and several others dangled from windowsills.
Royce Wayne James, 59, died Saturday, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. His cause of death was both blunt force and thermal injuries.
“We saw [the man] jump,” resident Luis Once said in Spanish. “My brother approached him to ask if he was OK, but he didn’t respond.”
When Once heard the fire alarm go off in his third-floor Minneapolis apartment, he opened the hallway door and a wall of thick, black smoke hit him. He fled out the front door while his two roommates, including his brother, went out the back.
A woman who jumped remains hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center in stable condition. Others were treated for smoke inhalation.
On Saturday, a 30-year-old man was arrested in connection with the fire and booked into Hennepin County jail, where he’s awaiting charges, authorities said. Officials are investigating the fire as arson, and some residents said they smelled gasoline or lighter fluid as they fled. The suspect has a couple of prior convictions, including for manufacturing and selling drugs and theft, according to court filings.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze in about 30 minutes, said Bryan Tyner, the Fire Department’s assistant chief of administration. “We were able to put the fire out fairly quickly.”
The fire displaced up to 30 residents, who were offered assistance by the American Red Cross. It was unclear whether they will be able to return to live in the units in the near future.
Apartment management at the scene Saturday declined to comment.
Once, a radio DJ who had lived in the building for 15 years, said he and his roommates will stay with friends until they can find a new place. “We lost absolutely everything,” he said.
Staff writer Erin Adler contributed to this report.