ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA
Police have arrested a man for allegedly setting a former councilmember’s vehicle on fire in Sunnyside over the weekend.
Devon Page, 22, has also been charged in connection to four other arson incidents within about a block from the car blaze and from Page’s own home, according to authorities. He allegedly set four trash fires in the vicinity of 49th and 50th streets and 39th Avenue.
All five fires were discovered around 5 a.m. There were no injuries reported.
Johnny Flores, 22, would has lived next door to Page for 10 years was surprised when he heard Page had been arrested for the fires.
“He seemed like a good kid,” said Flores. “I know he’s not like that.”
Gregory Conroy, 21, has known Page for three years and said he was always playing with lighters and fire but he never thought Page would commit any crimes.
“He didn’t seem that irrational to go burn a car especially close to where he lives,” said Conroy. “He was a really nice guy.”
The SUV reportedly belonged to Councilmember Eric Gioia, but police have said there is “no specific evidence” that Gioia’s vehicle was a target.
According to Gioia, he woke up on Sunday morning to a large thump noise which him and his wife thought had been one of their children. As he opened his son’s bedroom door to check on the noise he saw large flames outside of the window. Gioia and his wife, who was six months pregnant, rushed out of their house with their three children.
The windows on the Gioia’s house were cracked and their front outdoor patio received some damages as well.
“This could have been far worse, we feel incredibly lucky, blessed and grateful.” said Gioia. “We certainly feel happy that it’s all over.”
Before setting fire to the car, Page allegedly also began a fire on 51st Street at Donato’s Restaurant & Pizzeria. According to surveillance cameras at the restaurant, Oswaldo Calle, owner of Donato’s, said Page set fire to his garbage can and the outdoor sidewalk partitions.
“It’s a quiet neighborhood, this never happens,” said Calle. “I was happy I had the cameras. Now we can sleep in peace.”