Warrant: Suspect started deadly fire to get out of lease

KENS 5 is uncovering new details about the moments before a deadly fire that killed firefighter Scott Deem and severely injured another firefighter, Brad Phipps.

SAN ANTONIO - We're learning more about what led up to the deadly fire at the Ingram Square Shopping Center in May.

Authorities arrested Emond Johnson Wednesday, charging him with murder after firefighter Scott Deem died in the fire.

Since the May 18, 2017 fire that ripped through the northwest side shopping center, the San Antonio Fire Department has released very few details about the cause, until Wednesday's arrest was made.

A sorrowful Emond Johnson talked to KENS 5 the night of the fire.

According to an arrest warrant, Johnson met with investigators the next day.

Johnson claimed to investigators he saw homeless people by a dumpster and that the lights inside his gym, The Spartan Box, had been flickering.

The next day, Johnson met with investigators again. This time telling authorities he saw exposed wires where some ceiling tiles were missing.

There was no mention of lights flickering.

Eyebrows were raised because the gym had just passed an inspection by the City of San Antonio the month before.

The investigation changed when authorities found surveillance footage at the neighboring thrift store.

According to court documents, the video showed Johnson at the back of his gym minutes before the fire was called in.

Investigators say when confronted with the video on Wednesday, Johnson admitted he set fire to gasoline on the floor by the back door.

Johnson had a 62-month lease that began in April and owed 6865.28 in late rent.

A fire would get him out of lease.

"I would hope that he knows and that this will follow him throughout the rest of his life that he killed an extremely fine young man with a beautiful family that will never be the same, with children who will grow up missing their father," SAFD Chief Charles Hood said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Firefighter Brad Phipps was severely injured in the fire and continues to recover.

Johnson is facing charges ranging from arson to murder.

Johnson remains in the Bexar County Jail with bond set at more than $1.5 million.

The district attorney's office is seeking life in prison for Johnson if he's convicted.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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