Pounds: Another FireWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | email@example.com
It was already a community nightmare. Who would have thought it could get worse?
Losing two Toledo firefighters, Pvt. Stephen Machcinski and Pvt. James Dickman, was a shock to the region’s collective heart. Learning that their lives were ended by a possible arson is infuriating, confusing and further tears at a still-open wound.
Ray Abou-Arab, 61, of Oregon, owner of the 528 Magnolia St. building where Machcinski and Dickman were fatally injured, was arrested Jan. 31 and has since been charged with several counts of aggravated arson, two counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications, two counts of murder and one count of tampering with evidence. According to filed court documents, Abou-Arab allegedly “used and ignited an ignitable liquid inside the garage” to cause the fire. Intellectually, we know Abou-Arab is innocent until proven guilty, but the emotional response to even the allegation is an outrage that inspires scarily uncivilized feelings.
Toledo Fire & Rescue Department Chief Luis Santiago made an important appearance to appeal for calm on Feb. 3.
“[The arrest] has unleashed a negative emotion, I cannot lie about that,” Santiago said. “We’ve had discussions before when we’ve had rashes of fires and suspected arsons [and] at that time I told you it’s personal. Well, I will tell you as I stand here right now it doesn’t get any more personal.
“But with that being said, we understand the country we live in, we understand there’s a criminal justice system and it is our position that we are going to exercise great restraint and discipline and respect the system that’s in place.
“I’ve read some of the social media that’s going on,” Santiago added. “There’s a lot of folks that are jumping to conclusions and wanting to express themselves in a very assuming way. I ask for them to exercise that same discipline we are and let the system and the process work.”
Santiago said TFD is doing an internal investigation of the handling of events at the fire. He also said the department is working with individual firefighters who may need time off or grief counseling.
As we learned during the loss and course of justice that followed the death of Toledo Police Detective Keith Dressel, emotions can trump thought when dealing with such inexplicable loss. But we as a community need to heed Santiago’s call to let the courts do their work — even if there is no possible outcome in which justice can truly be served for an alleged crime with such a permanent and scarring impact.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.