Volume 17 • Issue 16 | SEPTEMBER 10 - 16, 2004

Police Blotter

Confucius Plaza fire
A three-alarm fire on an upper floor of the Confucius Plaza complex, fanned by high winds on Thursday morning, Sept 9, injured 28 firefighters and three residents by the time it was brought under control.

The fire began in the kitchen of an apartment on the 37th floor of 20 Confucius Plaza, in the 44-story complex on Bowery south of Canal St., shortly before 6 a.m., apparently in a cooking accident, a Fire Department spokesperson said. “High wind conditions created what we call a blowtorch effect with flames shooting out the window and being blown back inside,” the spokesperson said.

Most of the injured suffered from smoke inhalation but at least 7 firefighters had burns on the face and neck and one of the injured residents with a pacemaker had breathing problems. The injured were taken to various hospitals and all were described as being in stable condition.

The third alarm at 6:30 a.m. brought a total of 138 firefighters and 33 units to the scene. Firefighters evacuated residents from the 35th to the 38th floor – 48 apartments in all — but most of the residents in the 496 apartments at 20 Confucius Plaza left the building on their own, according to Christine Ang, manager of the building. They found temporary shelter in the auditorium and cafeteria of P.S. 124, which is on the grounds of the two-building residential complex. The two buildings have a total of 762 apartments.

The fire was declared under control at 8:10 a.m. but families were not able to return to their homes until about two hours later, said Lea Feng, community liaison for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. To make matters worse, elevators were not running and had not been restored by 4 p.m., so everyone had to climb stairs. Electric power and telephone service was only partially restored by 4 p.m. when water was still being pumped out of the basement, according to Ang.

The Red Cross found accommodation for two families whose apartments were destroyed and who did not find their own alternative places to stay, said Ang. “Our community room will be open tonight for anyone who can’t find a place to stay,” she said on Thursday afternoon.

NYU student deaths
New York University was shaken by the deaths of two students at the Tisch School of the Arts in the past week, one a suicide by a female graduate student who jumped to her death from the roof of the Tisch Building, 721 Broadway, on the morning of Sept. 5 and the other an as-yet-unexplained death, on Sept. 1 of a Tisch sophomore, 19, who was taken to NYU Downtown Hospital after complaining of stomach pains at his N.Y.U. residence at 80 Lafayette St., at the corner of White St. Joanne Michelle Leavy, 23, a second year film and television graduate student at Tisch, fled apparently distraught from her home at 11 Waverly Pl. where she lived with her family at about 10:20 a.m., ran to the school’s main building a block away and fell from the roof onto Mercer St. about 10 minutes later, according to police.

She was the sixth N.Y.U. student to fall to her death in the past 12 months. A student, 19, died when she jumped from her boyfriend’s University Pl. apartment after a quarrel in March. A graduate student died in a fall from a midtown building in June. A sophomore jumped six stories to her death from an apartment near Washington Sq. on Oct. 18, 2003 and on Oct.10, a freshman jumped to his death from the 10th floor balcony into the atrium of the Bobst Library. On Sept. 12, 2003, a student from Evanston, Ill., jumped to his death from the same Bobst Library balcony.

The other death last week was Spenser Kimbrough, 19, of Staten Island, a sophomore acting student at Tisch, who told a fellow student that he had stomach cramps at 12:20 a.m. on Wednesday. An ambulance dispatched by a 911 operator took him to NYU Downtown Hospital where he died at 3 a.m., police said.

Kimbrough’s mother said at a news conference five days later that doctors had told her that Spencer admitted to them that he had smoked marijuana and had been drinking before the stomach cramps attack, according to a New York Post article. She said her son was known for being anti-drug and called for a full investigation of the death.

The Kimbrough family also contended that Spencer’s dorm room had not been sealed after his death to ensure a proper investigation, as N.Y.U. officials had told them it would be. The Medical Examiner’s office said on Thurs. Sept. 9 that the case was still under investigation.

John Beckman, N.Y.U. spokesperson, said in regard to the Kimbrough case, “Any suggestion that the university has been less than forthcoming is wrong and unfair.” He added that the deaths of Kimbrough and Leavy were completely unrelated despite both victims being Tisch School students.

“There is an understandable desire to deduce a single cause or conclude that there is a single phenomenon,” Beckman said, “But each of these deaths has its own history and motivation, its own circumstances.”

7th Precinct fracas
An off-duty Department of Sanitation employee who went to the Seventh Precinct station house on Pitt St. on Sept. 6 became enraged, started swinging a traffic cone and attacked and slightly injured an officer who tried to stop him, police said. The D.O.S. employee, Dale Jackson, 38, was charged with assault, menacing and disorderly conduct. Police said they did not know why the suspect turned up at the station house at 4 p.m. on Labor Day.

Investigate Hester St. D.O.A.
Police responding to a 4:53 p.m. Sept. 4 report of a man unconscious on the roof of 140 Hester St., found the victim, identified only as an Asian man, 30, dead at the scene. There was no arrest and the Medical Examiner’s office was still investigating the cause of death on Sept. 9.

D.O.A. Downtown
Jared Duchein, 19, of the Bronx, was killed in an accidental fall from an upper floor of 176 Broadway during the early hours of Tues. Aug. 31, police said. Duchein was leaning against the guard bars of an open window when they gave way and he fell to the sidewalk on Broadway, police said. He was declared dead at NYU Downtown Hospital at 4 a.m.

—Albert Amateau

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