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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Eastern District of Michigan

For Immediate Release

November 15, 2011

Barbara L. McQuade, United States Attorney

Contact: Gina Balaya, Public Information Officer
(313) 226-9758

Detroit Man Sentenced for the August 2010 Arson that Injured 7 Detroit Firefighters

Samson Wright, age 31, of Detroit was sentenced today to 15 years in federal prison after having pleaded guilty to Malicious Use of Fire Resulting in Injury, announced United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Acting Special Agent in Charge William Temple, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The sentence was imposed by Judge John Corbett O’Meara in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor, where Wright pleaded guilty on May 17.

According to court records, in August 2010, Wright, aided and abetted by co–defendant Calvin Jones, burned a Metro PCS store located at the intersection of Jefferson and Drexel in Detroit. Detroit firefighters responded to the scene during which the ceiling and roof of the second floor burned completely through and the second story wall of the structure collapsed. The wall collapsed on seven firefighters who were attempting to fight the fire and force entry into the first floor of the buildings. Several firefighters suffered critical injuries. Some will never be able to return to work.

An investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Response Team determined that the fire was ignited with an accelerant later determined to be gasoline that had been placed into the structure through a hole in a brick wall that had been created earlier the day before the fire.

Calls to the ATF Tipline and extensive investigation by ATF agents and members of the Detroit Fire Department identified Wright and, later Jones, as the two who had started the fire.

Co–defendant Calvin Raymond Jones was convicted after a two–week trial in July. Jones is scheduled to be sentenced on November 30, 2011 where he faces up to 40 years in federal prison.

United States Attorney McQuade stated, Mr. Wright’s’ conduct significantly altered the lives of these firefighters and destroyed local small businesses. This conviction will not heal the firefighters’ serious and permanent injuries, but we hope that it will deter others from committing arson in the future.

ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Temple stated, This investigation further displays that arson crimes are not victimless fires, this wanton criminal act has devastated the lives of the injured firefighters, as well as the community. ATF stands willing, ready and able to partner with our local and state colleagues and to help our communities remain free from the danger arsonists present. I would specially like to thank all the agents, investigators, firefighters, and prosecutors for all their hard work and unwavering dedication during the course of this investigation.

Daniel F. McNamara, President of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, stated: The Detroit Fire Fighters Association is very appreciative of all the hard work and dedication that went into the prosecution of this case. The events of August 13, 2010, took a devastating toll on our firefighters and their families. We thank the United States Attorneys Office and federal prosecutors John O’Brien and Jeanine Brunson for their hard work and dedication on behalf of our fire fighters.

McQuade praised the work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Detroit Fire Department and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for their work on this case.

Assistant United States Attorneys John O’Brien and Jeanine Brunson prosecuted the case for the United States.