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Fights Break Out Between Tenants, NYPD Outside Bronx Apartment Fire

This post was updated at noon on Sept. 4, 2019.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There was chaos in the Bronx Tuesday night. As firefighters worked to stop a building from burning, fights broke out between frantic residents and police.

Nobody was seriously injured in the apartment fire, but two tenants are now under arrest.

Authorities tell CBS2 police were trying to keep people out of the firefighters' way, but as residents watched their building burn, panic quickly turned into conflict.

bronx fire fight
Police fight with unruly residents outside an apartment fire in the Bronx. (Credit: CBS2)

The crowd in the Bronx watched in a fearful daze as black smoke poured from their six-story apartment building on the Grand Concourse.

"We heard screaming, my mom opened the door and all you see was smoke and she said get out," one resident said.

Angel Nieves was in his top floor apartment when the fire broke out in his neighbor's kitchen around 4:30 p.m.

"We had to climb down the fire escape all the way down then someone would catch us," Nieves said.

His roommates lost their shoes climbing out the window.

"They slipped out when I was trying to get to the fire escape because there's bars," Midian Feuratdo told CBS2.

Five firefighters and two city sheriffs were taken to the hospital for minor injuries including smoke inhalation.

"It was a very advanced fire on the top floor it takes a long time for us to get all our equipment up there to fight the fire," FDNY Deputy Chief Joe Donlevy said.

As the building burned above, fights broke out between tenants and police officers.

Danny Rodriguez was just getting home from work.

"I noticed the smell of smoke from the train station… my panic knowing my little sisters live here, my brother lives here, ran straight to the house they told me to leave the building. I couldn't see inside of the building cause it was straight smoke," Rodriguez said.

The NYPD said officers were trying to keep crowds back, but some residents refused to move.

"Me and my brother looking for my mom, panicked, we get to the middle of the street and I look back and see my brother and another neighbor getting pushed by the officers… 'get to the sidewalk, get to the sidewalk'. As soon as my brother refused the officers started pushing my brother," Rodriguez claimed.

Rodriguez's 18-year-old brother was taken into custody. Police say their mother then ripped off an officer's body camera and threw it on the ground. She was also arrested.

"While my mom was going crazy, she was panicking, she had passed out on the ground," Rodriguez added.

Angelo Rodriguez and 39-year-old Raquel Dejesus have both been charged with disorderly conduct and criminal mischief among other charges.

The FDNY tells CBS2 the occupants of at least five apartments have been displaced, but most of the building's tenants have now been allowed back in.

Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, released a statement Wednesday morning:

"It is becoming impossible for police officers to do our job, even in emergency situations. At a fire scene, our role is to clear the area so that firefighters can contain the fire and prevent loss of life. This crowd didn't care: they wanted to fight the cops who were there to help. Thankfully everybody made it out this time, but our city leaders need to wake up: if they keep encouraging cop-hatred and interference with our duties, lives will be lost because we were prevented from doing our job,"  he said.


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