A Seattle man remains on a ventilator in critical condition almost two weeks after he was overcome by smoke from fires that King County prosecutors say a former tenant intentionally set in a Belltown apartment building.

An eyewitness, a tip and video-surveillance footage led Seattle police on Monday to arrest Jerrico Irizarry, 38, in connection with the March 10 arson at Bell Tower, a Seattle Housing Authority building in the 2200 block of First Avenue, according to charging papers filed Tuesday.

Irizarry is charged with first-degree arson and remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail. He is to be arraigned April 4. Court records do not yet indicate which attorney is representing him.

“The fires the defendant intentionally set in the basement parking garage and first-floor areas of the 16-story Bell Tower Apartments jeopardized the lives and housing of well over one hundred residents, all of whom are low-income and would likely be homeless absent the housing opportunity provided by the Seattle Housing Administration building,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Terence Carlstrom wrote in charging papers. “Had the fire in the lobby and office spread to the upper floors, the results would have been catastrophic.”

As it stands, a man Seattle firefighters dragged out of a first-floor bathroom remains hospitalized with “significant life support measures in place,” including a ventilator, Carlstrom wrote. While the man’s condition has somewhat improved, his prognosis for recovery is unknown.

Seattle firefighters and police officers responded to the 120-unit Bell Tower at 2:43 a.m. on March 10 and found active fires in the main lobby, the main office, in the courtyard, in an elevator and in multiple trash bins in the basement parking garage, charging papers say. Firefighters found an unconscious man in a first-floor bathroom and pulled him from the building, performing CPR before taking him to Harborview Medical Center.


Other residents were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Investigators determined that one fire set along an exterior wall burned into the first-floor office, destroying it and filling the lobby with smoke, according to charging papers.

Days later, a building resident told police that a former tenant, who hadn’t been seen at the building for two months, was at Bell Tower on the night of the fires but left just as the resident noticed the blaze in the office, the charges say.

(Kerry Coughlin, a spokesperson for Seattle Housing Authority, said in an email that Irizarry was never a tenant at Bell Tower but had some connection to one of the building’s residents.)

A tip called in to the fire department’s arson hotline identified Irizarry as the person responsible for setting the fires, and the tipster later told police of a disturbance Irizarry had been involved in at the building next door to Bell Tower a couple hours before the fires, the charges say.

Police obtained video-surveillance footage from that building and showed it to the Bell Tower resident, who confirmed the man in the video was the same person he saw in his building’s vestibule at the time of the fires, according to the charges.

Police arrested Irizarry on Monday at the corner of Third Avenue and Bell Street, and the charges say he had three lighters in his possession at that time.

Correction: Though charging papers referred to Jerrico Irizarry as a former tenant of Bell Tower, a spokesperson for the Seattle Housing Authority said he was never a tenant but was connected to one of the building’s residents.