Device thrown by BCSO deputy likely started fire that killed teen

A vigil for Brett Rosenau, the teen who died in a house fire during a SWAT standoff in July, was held at Civic Plaza days after his death. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Authorities say a tear gas canister thrown by a Bernalillo County deputy may have sparked the house fire that left a 15-year-old boy dead during a SWAT standoff last month in Southeast Albuquerque.

Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock, with the Albuquerque Police Department, said a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office SWAT member threw a tri-chamber canister that landed on a mattress. The mattress caught fire, and the fire then spread through the house.

That canister “cannot be eliminated” as the cause of the fire, Hartsock said. Albuquerque Fire Rescue ruled the fire accidental.

An AFR official said that based on the investigation, all other possible ignition sources were ruled out.

An autopsy found the teenager, Brett Rosenau, died from smoke inhalation. AFR investigated the cause of the fire and a Multi-agency Task Force is investigating the actions of law enforcement.

The Attorney General’s Office is conducting an independent investigation into the incident at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, Rosenau’s family and Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina.

Rosenau’s death was met with backlash from the community and hundreds protested in the weeks that followed as they criticized the actions of law enforcement.

The man police were trying to arrest, Qiaunt Kelley, 27, has since been charged in a homicide and unrelated shooting that happened in the weeks before the fire.

Police have said they tracked Kelley and Rosenau to the home in the 8100 block of San Joaquin SE, southwest of Zuni and Wyoming. Kelley and the teen ran inside the home around 7 pm and refused to come out, resulting in a SWAT team response.

A SWAT team made up of Albuquerque police and Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies threw tear gas canisters and shot other chemical ammunition into the house before the house caught fire. Kelley surrendered and Rosenau was found dead inside.

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