Device thrown by BCSO deputy likely started fire that killed teen

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Aug. 5—More than an hour after a Bernalillo County deputy threw a pepper spray canister into a home during a standoff last month, the SWAT team saw it smoldering on a mattress.

They tried to grab the canister with a bomb robot, but the claw fumbled it. Then, they pulled the flaming mattress from the home. But the damage was done.

The flames went on to consume the house after their target, Qiaunt Kelley, 27, surrendered, leaving 15-year-old Brett Rosenau dead inside from smoke inhalation.

During a news conference on Friday, Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina said that regardless of who threw the device that likely caused the fire, it was APD’s call from the start.

“I just want to make sure that’s out there loud and clear, that this was an APD initiated response,” he said. “We wanted to take Kelley into custody and this is an APD issue.”

APD officials also noted at the news conference that Rosenau has been linked to a shooting days before his death. The family referred the Journal to a lawyer, who did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Captain Jason Ramirez, of Albuquerque Fire Rescue fire investigations, said the fire has been ruled as accidental, but he stopped short of saying whether the canister started the blaze.

“We were unable to eliminate that device being an ignition source, all other ignition sources in the room were eliminated at this point,” he said.

When pressed, Ramirez added, “at this point in our investigation, there is no other possibility.”

Gilbert Gallegos said he didn’t know if the device, a Flameless Tri-Chamber OC Grenade made by Defense Technology, has been used since the incident. Whether APD will continue to use the devices, he said, “depends on what the investigation shows.”

“Clearly this was an issue in this fire that we’ve never experienced before, but we are looking at that as well as maybe other options for when we’re dealing with a barricaded subject, what else can be done to mitigate that,” Gallegos said.

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At the time of the incident Kelley was wanted on a parole violation, but he has since been charged in a recent homicide and an unrelated shooting. Detectives were following Kelley when he went to the home with Rosenau in tow.

When police went to arrest Kelley, both ran onto the property, kicking off an eight-hour standoff. Under APD’s command, SWAT members that included BCSO deputies used flash bangs, ferret rounds — powder chemical munitions shot into the ceiling…

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