The building’s owner, Al-Ashraf Khalil, stormed into flames that killed a firefighter

PHILADELPHIA — The owner of a building in Philadelphia that caught fire this month and collapsed, killing a city firefighter and injuring five others, has been charged with starting the fire, authorities said on Tuesday.

Al-Ashraf Khalil, 28, also lied to authorities investigating the June 18 fire and later flew to Jordan from the United States after telling investigators he had no travel plans, officials said. However, he was denied entry to Jordan and arrested at a New York City airport on Friday. Authorities said they used handcuffs with the deceased firefighter’s initials on them.

Khalil’s attorney, R. Emmett Madden, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his client played no role in the origin of the fire, adding that “he has fully supported and will continue to support this ongoing investigation.”

The fire killed Lt. Sean Williamson, 51, who was trapped in the rubble and was pronounced dead at the scene. His funeral took place on Monday.

Khalil and another person – who has not been identified and is still at large – entered the restaurant’s basement doors and set a fire in the kitchen area, authorities said, citing outdoor surveillance footage. A short time later, smoke can be seen coming from the building.

Khalil was wearing distinctive striped sweatpants and black-and-white mules when he entered the building and again when he returned to the scene, authorities said. Khalil allegedly told crime scene investigators he was at his home in Philadelphia when he received a call from a tenant in the apartments he rented above the pizza shop, but officials said they determined he actually made that call a few blocks from the crime scene.

Officials said eight people were safely evacuated from the upstairs apartments and that the fire was brought under control within an hour. But the building collapsed a short time later, trapping Williamson inside.

Authorities said Tuesday that if convicted, Khalil could face the death penalty. The building’s owner, Al-Ashraf Khalil, stormed into flames that killed a firefighter


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