Man jumps to death after setting fire


Published: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 12:35 a.m.
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A police officer attempts to save a man jumping from a balcony at a high-rise apartment building in downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday.

(AP Photo)
PHILADELPHIA - A man arguing with his girlfriend set fire to two apartments in a downtown high-rise Wednesday, then plunged to his death from a 23rd-floor balcony as an officer tried to save him by grabbing his sleeve, police said.
Louis Rogers, 24, threw furniture from two balconies before setting the blaze that sent smoke pouring from the Hopkinson House in the city's well-to-do Society Hill section.
A TV news helicopter captured images of Rogers climbing over the railing; a police officer rushed out and grabbed his sleeve but could not prevent him from falling.
Authorities later removed his body from an overhang above the building entrance.
Rogers' girlfriend, Vanessa Belino, left the building after the fire broke out, and was not hurt. Belino, who owned the apartment, was an assistant public defender in suburban Philadelphia from 1997 until 2002 and represented Rogers in at least two criminal cases, according to court records.
Rogers' rampage started with him wrecking the apartment and throwing things out the window, police said. Witnesses said Rogers was waving a samurai sword, SWAT team Capt. John Gaittens said.
Rogers then jumped from a 25th-floor balcony to a balcony on the 24th floor, broke into that apartment, threw items out, and set the place ablaze.
The SWAT team moved to the 23rd floor to catch Rogers as he dropped another floor.
The officers who entered the empty apartment saw Rogers hanging off the balcony and talking on a cell phone, Gaittens said.
He threw the phone at the officer who tried to grab him before he slipped off the balcony.
Fifty-one of the building's 536 units were evacuated, and tenants were kept in the lobby to protect them from falling debris.
No injuries were reported. A demolished leather couch and armchair, tables and chairs, wooden dresser drawers and other items were strewn in front of the building.
It took about 100 firefighters more than an hour to brings the blaze under control.
Alfred Margerum, 47, who lives across the hall, said police had been at the apartment numerous times to break up arguments between Rogers and his girlfriend.
A next-door neighbor, Kim Harris, 32, said Rogers kept loud birds, played music all night and sometimes leaned out his window and set things on fire. She said he worked in construction.
Allan Domb, whose real estate office manages the building, said the girlfriend's lease had been terminated because of noise complaints, and she was to move out at the end of the month.

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