North Side homicide, arson probed together


By Peter H. Milliken

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The man who was fatally shot Tuesday afternoon in a house at 1515 Kensington Ave. has been identified by city police as Andre Harrison, 34, who lived at that address.

Harrison, who was found dead on the living room floor, was shot in the neck at 5:29 p.m., and police arrived on the scene three minutes later.

That house was later destroyed in a 2:20 a.m. Wednesday blaze, which fire Battalion Chief Ron Russo said was deliberately set; and arson investigators were examining the rubble Wednesday.

The speed with which the Cape Cod house on the city’s North Side burned indicated use of an accelerant, Russo said.

“From the time it started to the time we got there, I don’t think was very long. But it was totally engulfed, so I’m sure they enhanced it with something,” namely an accelerant, he said of the arsonist or arsonists.

Ordinarily, “You don’t get that kind of rapid burn in a house that’s constructed that well,” he said.

“We couldn’t get in it [the house]. It was totally engulfed when we got there,” he said. “There was fire coming out of every window and door when we got there.”

Retaliation or the desire to destroy evidence are possible motives for setting the fire, in which the house burned to the ground, Russo said. As of late Wednesday night, there were no suspects and no arrests.

Police Capt. Brad Blackburn, chief of detectives, said it was not a drive-by shooting, but he would not reveal the type and caliber of gun used, how many shots were fired or how many wounds the victim suffered.

“The only thing visible to us at the scene was the neck wound,” Blackburn said, adding that the autopsy by the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office would provide additional information.

“We believe we know what the motive was, but we really don’t want to comment on it,” Blackburn said of the homicide.

Police didn’t have any suspects in custody in the homicide or the arson Wednesday, but they were interviewing witnesses.

Nobody was inside the home when it burned, Blackburn said.

Investigators are treating the homicide and the arson “like they are connected, but we can’t confirm that yet,” Blackburn said, adding that he doesn’t know the motive for the arson.

If the coroner rules the death a homicide, it would be the city’s 15th this year, the same as the number at this time last year.

Police and coroner’s Investigator Theresa Valek examined the interior and exterior of the two-story house before the body was removed.

Police examined security cameras on the outside of the house to see if they were operating and contained useful evidence.

As police investigated at the scene Tuesday night, between 50 and 75 people gathered to watch.

They were subdued, except for a young woman who sobbed when the victim’s body was removed from the house and driven away.

In county common pleas court, Judge R. Scott Krichbaum sentenced Harrison to two years’ probation in September 2008 after he pleaded guilty to robbery.

Judge Krichbaum, however, ordered him to prison for two years in May 2010 for a probation violation, but granted him judicial release in January 2011.

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