State and federal authorities on Thursday arrested the owner of a furniture store where two firefighters were killed earlier this year.
FRM/FFN Philadelphia Fatal Warehouse Fire Coverage
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office would provide no further details on the state perjury and fraud charges filed against Richard Knellinger, 40, owner of Giamari Furniture & Bedding on Kensington Avenue.
The store was adjacent to the vacant Thomas W. Buck Hosiery complex, which burned to rubble on April 9. One of the mill's five-story brick walls collapsed on the furniture store while four firefighters were inside.
Two of the men were rescued; Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney died.
More than a week later, District Attorney Seth Williams said a grand jury would be convened to examine the circumstances surrounding the fire, the cause of which has never been determined.
The grand jury proceedings are secret, and it's unclear if the perjury charge against Knellinger was related to any testimony he might have given there.
Knellinger was arrested Thursday morning by members of a task force that includes agents from the U.S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the federal agency that investigates fires and arsons.
No federal charges were filed against Knellinger.
Knellinger had yet to be arraigned Thursday evening and could not be reached.
Shortly after the fire, Mayor Nutter was highly critical of the Lichtenstein family, the Brooklyn-based owners of the Buck building, who had planned to convert the century-old mill to apartments.
Neighbors, concerned that vagrants and drug addicts breaking into the building would cause a fire, complained repeatedly to the city. The city said the Lichtensteins did not respond to three citations from the Department of Licenses and Inspections in the months before the fire.
Leaders of the firefighters' union, however, also cast blame at departmental cutbacks they blame for leaving them shorthanded.
They also charged that commanders on the scene of the fire failed to establish a "collapse zone" that would have prevented firefighters from being in danger from the mill's crumbling walls.
While the scope of the grand jury investigation is not known, testimony at a Council hearing convened last week by Councilman James F. Kenney was highly critical of departmental procedure in the fire.
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