A crazed correction officer burst into a Brooklyn brownstone yesterday and splashed gasoline inside before torching the place, leaving 11 people injured, including four in critical condition, witnesses and police sources said.
Evette Rudolph, 43, was wearing her jail-guard uniform when she walked out of the building on Chauncey Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant just as smoke was starting to pour out at about 9:15 a.m., witnesses said.
“She was walking calm. That really caught my eye,” said Gado Robinson, a 21-year-old student.
“I was saying to myself, ‘How are you dressed for work and you are coming out of an apartment on fire and you didn’t notify anybody?’ ’’
Randolph was arrested by the NYPD Arson and Explosion Squad and charged early this morning with arson in the second degree. Police said she worked for the city jails, but the Department of Correction did not respond to a request for information about her employment.
Firefighters use a ladder to access the top floors of the burned-out brownstone.
More than 100 firefighters responded to the blaze and brought it under control 45 minutes later.
Eleven people suffered smoke inhalation and were rushed to area hospitals, where four were treated for life-threatening injuries.
Woodrow Spencer, 49, who lives on the third floor saw smoke coming in from under his door.
“I saw the smoke and I felt a lot of heat on my feet,” Spencer said. “I was scrambling to find my things, but I said, ‘No, I better get the hell out of here!’ ”
Resident Keith Robinson said the FDNY’s Bravest heroically battled to rescue victims.
“I watched the firefighters resuscitating people right there on the ground,” Robinson, 29, said. “They were putting their own lives in jeopardy.”
Robinson said firefighters were hauling victims out windows and carrying them down ladders.
Investigators examine the aftermath of the arson blaze.
“[Firefighters] were even trying to save the animals,” Robinson added. “They were just running in there to save lives. You need a lot more people like that.”
A building source said Rudolph’s boyfriend had lived at the address, but left last December.
Witnesses said they saw her pacing around outside the brownstone just before the fire.
“The female was walking around outside the building all morning,” one source said. “She’s obviously pretty creepy.”
Neighbors said that someone, possibly Rudolph, recently got into the building and tried to break into an apartment.
“All I know is, two days ago, this lady tried to break in a second-floor apartment,” one said. “A pastor lives there with his wife.”