Tenant blames fire in McKees Rocks on home invaders

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Allegheny County fire marshals and police are investigating a fire Thursday night on Boquet Street in McKees Rocks, law enforcement officials said Friday.

McKees Rocks police Chief Robert Cifrulak said his officers responded to a home invasion call and "found the house fully involved in flame" and the tenant not present.

The tenant, Thomas M. Scott, was later found and told police "he was the victim of a home invasion and that the two who invaded his home set it on fire," Chief Cifrulak said. "An Allegheny County detective that's investigating it actually spoke with the resident there, and the [McKees Rocks] officer's report indicated that the resident told him that two black males armed with guns entered his house and set his house on fire."

A county dispatcher said the call came in at 7:52 p.m. County police referred requests to the fire marshals, who could not be reached.

Steven Smith, who owns the property, said the house appeared to be a total loss.

"It was bad," Mr. Smith said, adding that he was shopping when he got a call alerting him to the fire. "It was one of the worst fires I've ever seen. It was a ball of flames.

"I've been [a landlord] for around 10 years, had a lot of things happen to me. But nothing like this. This makes me want to put for sale signs on all of them."

Mr. Smith filed an ejectment lawsuit against Mr. Scott in October. According to that lawsuit, Mr. Scott had agreed in 2008 to gradually buy the property from Mr. Smith for $50,000, payable in monthly installments, but stopped paying late last year.

A week ago, Mr. Smith filed a motion claiming that Mr. Scott was "actively avoiding service of the complaint."

Mr. Scott had two run-ins with McKees Rocks police on Jan. 10, leading officers to conclude that he was claiming to have a law enforcement background.

That morning, according to an affidavit filed in one of the resulting cases, Mr. Scott got into an argument at a gas station and "identified himself as 'an employee of the Commonwealth' followed by Thomas stating that he was a 'PA State Trooper.' "

Following another incident later that day, police wrote in a separate affidavit that Mr. Scott "appeared to have firearms training" because of the way he handled a 9 mm pistol in a confrontation with a motorist.

Several charges against Mr. Scott, including impersonating a public servant, were later withdrawn. In July, he was found not guilty on all remaining charges at a nonjury trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Philip A. Ignelzi.

State police could not say Friday whether Mr. Scott had ever been a trooper, noting that personnel staff members were off work post-Thanksgiving.

Mr. Scott could not be reached for comment.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord.

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