FOR THE FIRST time in more than five weeks, residents of Coulter Street near Lena in East Germantown could go to bed last night without fear that their rowhouse block would go up in flames at the hands of an arsonist: The suspected firebug was arrested and charged yesterday with setting at least two of the blazes.
Leonard Monroe, 24, of Clearfield Street near 21st in Swampoodle, was locked up for allegedly setting fires on the block in the overnight hours Nov. 9 and Dec. 1, police said. A third arson, set early Sunday morning, remained under investigation yesterday, but was also believed to be linked, according to authorities.
Monroe was arraigned yesterday, charged with two counts each of arson, aggravated assault, causing catastrophe, criminal mischief and related offenses, according to court records. He was held on $1 million bail - $500,000 for each incident in which he's charged.
Police said in the Nov. 9 incident, Monroe is believed to have placed a lit Molotov cocktail between the front and storm doors of a house on the block. The makeshift bomb extinguished itself, leaving the doors damaged but nobody injured.
In the Dec. 1 incident, police said, two incendiary devices were placed by the door of the same house. A resident was able to put that blaze out before it caused serious damage, cops said.
In Sunday's fire - which remains under investigation - gasoline was believed to have been used to set fire to the front of a house in the same area. That fire spread into the living room, ruining a family's Christmas tree and gifts. A 61-year-old man from that house, who identified himself only as Danny, sobbed as he recounted having to help his family members, including his 4-month-old granddaughter, escape through an upstairs window.
"I'm scared for my life," the man told the Daily News Sunday.
Monroe, who court records show has been arrested several times before on charges including aggravated assault, gun possession and robbery, is to appear in court again to face his latest charges Jan. 16.