Authorities investigate suspected arson at Indy house with troubled history

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Investigators are looking into an overnight house fire on the city’s east side as a case of arson, according to officials with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indianapolis Fire Department.

The fire, which took place at 2504 Brookside Avenue, was first reported around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. Video shot by a bystander showed fire crews arriving as the house was fully engulfed in flames. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire and found nobody inside when they searched the house.

Wednesday afternoon, police and fire officials said the city’s arson investigations unit was looking at the fire as an arson case, but the cause was undetermined.

Marvin Engleking, who owns the property, said he had just evicted the tenants two days prior to the fire, and there was no electricity or gas service running to the home.

“It’s a total loss,” Engleking said.

Neighbors on Brookside Avenue said they were not happy to have an arson investigation on their street, and they don’t like the idea of firefighters being put at risk. However, they were glad to see the house burned down because of repeated police and criminal activity there.

“There’s been shootings over there, there’s been the cops over there left and right,” said one woman who asked not to be identified out of concern for her safety.  “It’s a good thing it burned. That way, nobody else can be in there causing more trouble around here.”

Online records show police have been to the house eight times in the last eight months. Officers have responded to a variety of calls, including a shooting, an armed robbery and a car theft. Police have also conducted several warrant searches at the home.

In early August, records show IMPD and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force conducted a drug raid at the home. Court records show police found evidence of a drug dealing operation while a child was living in the home. One woman was arrested in the raid, and a man was arrested on an outstanding warrant, according to police records.

Engleking says he had no idea police were investigating his tenants for possible drug activity until the raid happened.

“They were supposed to be in there fixing the house up a little bit as they went,” Engleking said. “There wasn’t supposed to be no kids here.”

Neighbors say there was constant traffic at the home, with people coming and going all hours of the day and night. Several neighbors said they were afraid to comment on record out of concern for their safety, but they said they were glad the house will now be empty.

“Hopefully, they won’t rebuild it,” the unidentified woman said. “I’m hoping they won’t.”

A spokesperson for the Indianapolis Business and Neighborhood Services Department said a city inspector should be out to examine the property in the coming days. The inspector will determine whether the house needs to be demolished. Unless Engleking decides to pay for the demolition himself, it could be six to 18 months before the house is torn down. That schedule could be expedited if the structure is at risk for collapsing or damaging adjacent properties, the spokesperson said.

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