Mar 7, 2007

Warrant for Guards Sought for Immigration Fire

March 07, 2007 Joongang ilbo

South Jeolla police said yesterday that a detainee at the Yeosu Immigration Office set the fire that killed 10 and injured 17 others last month, and sought arrest warrants for four security guards on charges of neglecting their duties.
Police are investigating eight guards at the center who were on duty that night, Kim Jan-wan, chief of Yeosu Police, said yesterday in a briefing.

The guards at the immigration center, operated by the Justice Ministry, did not properly watch the rooms and initially tried to keep the detainees inside the building, causing more deaths and injuries, police said.

One of the guards, 43, was sleeping at the time and had asked a substitute to watch a room through a security camera, police said.

Another guard, 35, was reading a book at the time of the fire and initially kept the detainees from leaving the building, police said.

A 51-year-old security guard at the center saw the Chinese man who set the fire place a wet tissue on the lens of a security camera to mask his actions, but did not take any action, police said.

Mr. Kim said there was no direct evidence the detainee, a 39-year-old Chinese man, set the fire in an attempt to escape. However, he said, there was plenty of circumstantial evidence. The detainee was killed in the fire.
“Based on two lighters found at the site, testimony from detainees, and video clips from a security camera, we concluded that the Chinese man set the fire,” Mr. Kim said.

The Chinese man was alone in the living room where the fire started. Other detainees said he used a flammable chemical to spread the fire on the floor, police said.
According to police, the fire spread to other rooms through the ceiling.
The Chinese man was prepared to escape, police said, as he wore many layers of clothes, including cotton pants, sweat pants and long underwear, and also had 130,000 won ($137) wrapped around his left ankle with a rubber band.


By Chun Chang-hwan JoongAng Ilbo/ Kim Soe-jung Staff Writer

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SeanHayes@ipglegal.com