19-year-old man accused of starting apartment fire that displaced nearly 40 residents

Malachi Wilder faces charges of arson, attempted murder

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor, Todd Tongen - Anchor/Reporter

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - A 19-year-old man was arrested early Thursday for starting an apartment fire in Miami Gardens that displaced nearly 40 residents, authorities said.

The fire was reported around 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Crystal Lakes Apartments in the 2600 block of Northwest 207th Street. 

"Everybody is running out. The property managers are banging on the doors yelling, 'Get out! Get out! There is a fire,'" Ihab, whose beauty store is next door to the apartment complex, said.

According to authorities, Malachi Luke Wilder was near the source of the fire when firefighters arrived at the scene.

Ihab said he saw the accused arsonist and shot video of him as first responders arrived.

"There is a guy laying on the ground, crying on the stairs. The cops and firefighters had to drag him down the stairs," Ihab said. "The neighborhood is talking, and they are saying it could have been suicide -- a suicide attempt. I don't know, but he put a lot of people in harm's way."

Wilder was taken into custody for questioning and was later arrested on charges of arson and attempted murder.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan told Local 10 Wednesday that the suspect is a tenant at the apartment complex.

"What I understand is that someone was very upset and set his own apartment on fire with the intent of trying to destroy the entire building," Jordan said. 

Dozens of residents were forced out of their homes. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said six units were destroyed and many more were damaged by smoke.  

Police urged people who need assistance to go to Bennett Lifter Park at Northwest 26th Avenue and Northwest 207th Street.

The Red Cross is also assisting the displaced residents.

Copyright 2018 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.