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Archive for Friday, January 11, 2002

Police canisters started fatal fire

January 11, 2002

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— Police smoke canisters sparked a fire that killed a slaying suspect who shot at officers during a standoff, the city fire marshal ruled Thursday.

Mike R. McCollum, 58, died Dec. 22 of smoke inhalation after a 10-hour standoff with officers. Police later said they believe McCollum killed two people, including the husband of his stepdaughter.

City fire marshal Robert Rocha said the smoke canisters shoot sparks as hot as 1,400 degrees. Those sparks apparently ignited a couch.

Firefighters were already at the scene when the fire started. But Rocha said the smoke canisters made it difficult to tell there was a fire. It took firefighters about 10 minutes to enter the house, and McCollum had died by then, Rocha said.

"With the amount of smoke generated, it would have been very difficult for anybody to survive that situation," he said.

"I don't feel there was any intent by anybody to start a fire," Rocha said. "It's just that when you use these projectiles in a situation like the police department had, you may have an accidental lighting."

Police have said Martin C. Morris, 42, and his wife McCollum's stepdaughter were arguing when McCollum came to the home. Police believe McCollum shot Morris.

McCollum then took his stepdaughter to his house and held her hostage until she escaped the next morning. She called police around 9 a.m.

McCollum holed up inside his home, shot at officers and refused to surrender. About 7 p.m. that day, flames engulfed the home.

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