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Intentional fire in Brooklyn kills 70-year-old man. Here's the latest on the NYPD's investigation

Intentional house fire in Brooklyn kills 70-year-old man, NYPD says
Intentional house fire in Brooklyn kills 70-year-old man, NYPD says 02:07

NEW YORK -- The NYPD says an intentional house fire in Brooklyn on Friday night killed a man and injured another person.

Vetus Roberts, 70, was pronounced dead at the scene of the blaze on Monroe Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The father and grandfather worked as a carpenter.

His heartbroken daughters living in Florida and Saint Vincent video chatted with a family friend on Saturday morning and described their dad as a family man.

"Dad was hardworking and loved and he shouldn't have died that way," Genaira Roberts said.

Vetus Roberts' 65-year-old girlfriend of more than 20 years, Jennifer, who he lived with, was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation and is listed in stable condition.

"She was distraught. She was ... head down," neighbor Justin Coward said.

Police have someone in custody they're questioning.

"Whoever done this needs to be held accountable. That's all we can say right now," Genaira Roberts said.

Neighbors described the harrowing scene

"It's gut wrenching, devastating. It was gut wrenching," a neighbor named Kayron said.

Kayron and her neighbors, who were still in their clothes from the night before, were trying to process how the beginning of their Memorial Day weekend turned into a frantic escape.

"We got everybody out rapidly. We ran up four stories like four times," Coward said. "We got everyone out before you could see the fire."

Coward, who has lived in the building his whole life, said he was playing video games in his third-floor apartment just before 11:30 p.m. when he smelled and saw smoke coming from the first floor. He said he rushed his neighbors, about 10 families, out to safety, but wasn't able to get one neighbor, who first responders found inside unconscious.

"I thought he was already out. I didn't know he was still in there. I did not know he was still in there. I would've got him out, too," Coward said.

"It's very disheartening. It's disturbing"

Neighbors say leading up to the tragedy there didn't appear to be any conflict or scenario that may have lead to someone wanting to start a fire at the building.

"It's very disheartening. I's disturbing. We all could've lost our lives last night because if that was intentional, that would've been cruel," Coward said. "To live among people who do that type of stuff is crazy. Like, I never expected that. I would've never expected that."

But even through mourning the loss of their neighbor, the building residents know they'll always look after each other.

"That's family and family is not always blood. It's how you live," Kayron said.

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