Resident accused of starting fire at Mesa apartment complex

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

MESA, Ariz. – Mesa police have arrested a man accused of starting a fire at an apartment complex near Main Street and Horne early Monday morning.

Police said the fire started in a ground-floor unit and spread to shared attic space, damaging many of the units and displacing dozens of residents.

No injuries were reported.

Irenio De La Cruz, 48, first told investigators that it was an accident caused by cooking oil. He then admitted that he had intentionally started the fire, claiming the voices in his head made him do it.

De La Cruz claimed he had been hearing the voices of people he knows and that the voices were telling him they were going to hurt him. He also told police that he was high on meth and hadn't slept for days due to the voices.

De La Cruz reportedly put his couch in front of his door to keep the voices from getting to him. He told police that he used a lighter to light the arm of the couch on fire then blew on it and the flames grew out of control.

Residents are angry because they could have lost their lives and some have lost their homes.

"Everything can be replaced, but lives can't," Tony Buckley said. He and his family were displaced.

"They cut a hole in the walkway into my house and then they cut a hole in my living room and then they cut a hole in my bedroom," said resident Israel Urbina.

Urbina, his son and two dogs have to find a new place to live.

Buckley said he heard De La Cruz bragging about starting the fire.

"He's saying, 'How do you like me now?' and was cussing and all that," Buckley said.

De La Cruz was placed under arrest for arson of an occupied structure and six counts of endangerment.

Many of the residents forced from their homes went to a Red Cross shelter until they can find another place to stay.

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