Suspect found incompetent to stand trial in arson that killed 5 on Detroit's east side


DETROIT – A Detroit man was found incompetent to stand trial for allegedly starting a massive fire that killed five people on Detroit's east side.

Henry Keith Johnson, 55, was charged with five counts of first-degree felony murder and five counts of first-degree arson.

Original Report: 5 killed, more injured in massive fire at apartment building on Detroit's east side

Five people were killed and at least four others were injured Wednesday in the massive fire at an apartment building at Whittier Avenue and Greensboro Street.

Police said the fire started on the rear of the second floor around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. High winds helped it grow so quickly that the people inside couldn't get out fast enough.

Eight units in the apartment building were engulfed by the fire.

"It's like when you light a fireplace and you use the bellows and the fire blows up," Detroit Fire Department Deputy Commissioner Dave Fornell said. "So we've got these high winds, and it just drove the fire right through the building."

Four victims were taken to St. John Hospital with burns and injuries from smoke inhalation, officials said. A 52-year-old woman and a 70-year-old man were treated for smoke inhalation and released, police said. A 56-year-old man is in serious condition with lacerations and smoke inhalation. A 67-year-old man is in critical condition with second-degree burns.

One of the five victims killed in the fire died at the hospital. The other four people who were killed never made it out of the building, officials said.

Firefighters couldn't reach the apartments initially because of the wall of flames and smoke.

"They were trying to get in that building and it was like into the mouth of the dragon," Fornell said. "It was just tremendously hot and heavy smoke and it was just very horrible to go into."

Half an hour after the fire was under control, a neighbor ran out to tell firefighters his house was on fire. The garage of the house burned, but there were no injuries.

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