Arson Suspected in Texas Apartment Fire That Led to Hero's Arrest

Arson is suspected in the case of an apartment fire in which a man was hailed as a hero for rescuing its occupants, then was arrested on a probation violation after he appeared on TV.


ABILENE, Texas (AP) -- Arson is suspected in the case of an apartment fire in which a man was hailed as a hero for rescuing its occupants, then was arrested on a probation violation after he appeared on TV.

At a bond hearing Wednesday for Kris Leija, a fire official testified that investigators are looking at whether the fire Sunday was arson. After the hearing, Leija's attorney, Sam Moore, said no one _ including his client _ had been ruled out as a possible suspect.

Leija, 22, said he was passing the apartment complex on his bicycle early Sunday when he noticed the blaze. He braved the flames three times, rescuing four children, including one in a baby seat, and ignoring paramedics who warned him not to put himself in danger.

Video footage showed Leija collapsing on his hands and knees from apparent exhaustion afterward.

Later Sunday, a sheriff's deputy recognized Leija when he appeared on television with the children's grandmother. He was arrested Monday on the unrelated probation violation after doing several interviews with local and national media.

At the bond hearing, Abilene Assistant Fire Marshal Randy Doan testified that the origin of the fire was a trailer in middle of the complex and that he has sent samples to see if accelerants, such as gasoline, were present. Leija was released on $3,000 bond.

A cousin of Leija recalled another time that Leija played the role of hero at a fire.

Precilla Estrada, 21, said Leija was among a group socializing at a house last August when they realized a nearby duplex was on fire and he rushed over.

Abilene Fire Department records show Leija cut his arm when he broke a window, trying to get into the burning duplex. That blaze was caused when a child accidentally set a couch on the porch on fire, according to a fire report.

A date for a hearing on whether Leija's probation will be revoked has not been set. In an interview at the Taylor County Detention Center on Tuesday, Leija said he didn't meet with the probation officer because he didn't have a permanent address needed for required paperwork.