Police: Man took dog from building before fire


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Twenty minutes after residents reported a suspicious fire at an Iowa City apartment complex on Jan. 29, a woman who lived in the building told police she saw a stranger with her dog that she’d left in her apartment.

Police said the woman was walking one of her dogs at College Green Park on Jan. 29 when she saw an older male walking her other dog.

According the Iowa City police daily activity log, she called police at 11:15 p.m. requesting that officers check on her boyfriend, who was supposed to be at her apartment watching the dog.

The woman reportedly got into an altercation with the man, who then pushed her, prompting her to grab the dogs and run to her apartment.

The unknown person appeared to be a transient, she told officers.

Iowa City police Detective D.J. Steva said the woman and her dogs lived at 421 S. Dodge St. Apt. 1, where officials believe the fire began around 10:54 p.m.

Last week, officials released a sketch and description of a possible male witness who may have been near College Green Park or 421 S. Dodge St. the night of the incident between 10:30 and 11:25 p.m.

Steva said though he can not directly connect the transient who allegedly had the dog to the composite sketch of the “possible witness,” he believes the two incidents are related and said they are being investigated together.

“We know that the dog was in the apartment at 421 S. Dodge before the fire was called in,” Steva said. “Somebody, we don’t know who yet, clearly had to take that dog out of the apartment before the fire.”

Steva said officials are now looking for anyone who may have seen the dog removed from the building, and several witnesses to the fire have come forward.

“We have a lot of information, and things are coming together, and hopefully, we’ll have a resolution soon,” Steva said.

All 12 residents of the building were displaced but uninjured.

Several residents and neighbors said the night of the incident that they had heard “loud bangs” moments before the building went up in flames, but officials won’t confirm the cause until they receive lab results.

Iowa City Fire Battalion Chief Ken Brown said the fire remains “under investigation,” and officials are working hard to bring it to an end.

Fire officials estimated $120,000 in structural damage to the building and $15,000 in content damage following the fire.

Iowa City Area CrimeStoppers has guaranteed a $1,000 reward for the arrest of the person responsible for the crime.

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