A man charged with starting 18 fires in Queens section of New York over the past few months has said he set the blazes “just for fun.”
Kareem Jamel Walters, 26, was arraigned Saturday afternoon on charges of arson, assault, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief and ordered held without bail. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Walters was arrested Friday after a fire captain spotted him at the scene of a blaze at an Elmhurst apartment complex and recognized him as having been at several other fires in the area.
When questioned, Walters allegedly confessed to setting a long string of fires in vehicles and buildings around the city, starting with the torching of a motorcycle in Maspeth in August.
Walters said he started the Friday Elmhurst fire by igniting bags of garbage and a discarded Christmas tree, according to the Queens district attorney’s office. Prosecutors said officials found two books of matches in his possession.
“Yeah, I did it,” Walters told reporters as he entered a Queens courthouse Friday.
“Just for fun,” he added.
Authorities said Walters lived at a group home for formerly homeless people with a mental illness or developmental disability and that he worked as an office supply salesman.
Investigators said Walters told them he loved watching the flames destroy things and then watching the fire department put them out. No one died as a result of the fires, but one firefighter suffered lacerations to his face on Jan. 15 when an electric meter exploded in a burning town house.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown on Saturday said in a release that Walters stands accused of being a “serial firebug” whose “alleged actions had the potential of causing millions of dollars in property damage and the loss of an unknown number of lives.”
Officials identified the sharp-eyed fire official who recognized him as Capt. John Abbruzzese, a 24-year veteran of the department.
Walters next court date is Feb. 2, according to the district attorney’s office. The office did not have a name or contact information for his lawyer.
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