Federal investigators on Thursday arrested and charged two New York residents for allegedly setting on fire a police van used to help the city’s homeless in Manhattan.
Corey Smith, 24, and Elaine Carberry, 36, were allegedly caught on surveillance cameras torching an NYPD homeless outreach van last month. They were accused of pouring liquid from a tequila bottle to commit the arson and destroy the police van in the early hours of July 15, according to prosecutors.
With the help of an undercover police officer who had interacted with the two suspects, a tip from a member of the public, and the video surveillance, investigators were able to identify the two accused, the complaint said (pdf).
The complaint alleged that Smith was caught on surveillance camera holding a glass bottle, which appeared to be a Patron tequila bottle, with Carberry while walking toward the van. Shortly after, the van burst into flames and surveillance footage showed Smith and Carberry walking away from the van. As they walked away, Smith handed Carberry what appeared to be a bottle, which she put in her purse.
Minutes later, Carberry was seen handing Smith a bottle from her purse, and Smith was seen walking towards the police van again. After the couple returned, “a larger fire appeared to ignite at or around the NYPD van.” The pair was seen walking away from the van again during which Smith again handed Carberry an object that looked like a bottle, the investigator said.
Investigators said that a Patron tequila bottle was recovered from the van and an analysis found that an accelerant had been used to ignite the van. The fire department also confirmed that the fire was deliberately set.
“As alleged, Corey Smith and Elaine Carberry deliberately set fire to an NYPD van, then minutes later returned to the vehicle and—once again using an accelerant—ensured its complete destruction. Thanks to the NYPD, the Fire Department, and the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], there was not further damage to life or property. The defendants are now in custody,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
Smith and Carberry have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit arson and one count of arson, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
“Setting a police car on fire endangers police officers, firefighters, and nearby residents and properties. These organized efforts are not a form of protest, they are crimes,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement. “They cost the taxpayer and damage the cause of those engaged in legitimate protest.”