JTTF investigating bomb making material at Astoria fire
Around 2pm Tuesday September 15th, FDNY responded to a house fire at 24-07 19th Street in Astoria. The fire was confined to house of origin & went to an All Hands to extinguish. EMS transported the tenant who was described as Emotionally Distrubed, with burns to his hands.
Hours after companies left the scene, the landlord & a neighbor discovered what appeared to be a fireproof box outside of the home. Next-door neighbor Debbie Riga said the box was suspicious, so they decided to open it.
"I saw long fuses, & some kind of powder," Riga said, "It was packaged, but I also saw an awful lot of FedEx packages. They were sealed. I was tempted to open them, but the police said that I would be breaking the law, so I didn't open them"
The tenant, 37-year-old Marak Squires, remains hospitalized & is charged with reckless endangerment. Federal agents are scouring his electronic devices & other evidence- more charges are possible.
"The fire really concerned me," Riga said. "My God, because these houses are so closer together."
Squires is a software developer & early Bitcoin investor. Neighbors said he kept to himself, that his blinds would mostly be shut & that he had little to no interaction with anyone.
The materials were not assembled, but they were enough for Riga & the landlord to flag down firefighters, who called the police & FBI.
When investigators entered Squires' apartment to look further, they found more bomb making items including potassium nitrate.
Magnesium powder, sulfur powder, copper powder, aluminum powder, hobby fuse & mixing cups were also discovered in the home.
"The chemicals separately are what they are, but taken together they can assemble an explosive device," Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counterterrorism John Miller said. "There were books about military explosives, booby traps & other things...What we're looking at here is the totality of the circumstances that raised our concern to a level where we're going to need more investigation."
Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the fire & looking into the mental state of the tenant.
"Obviously the man is sick," Riga said. "He didn't get the help he needs & it results in things like this."
A second suspect suffered second-degree burns & is in the Cornell burn unit at the hospital where he is being evaluated.
Squires has one prior arrest for misdemeanor assault for a dispute with his 28-year-old girlfriend over a cell phone. She suffered a bruised arm & a scratch in the scuffle.
Squires graduated from East Hampton High School.