Teen Died from Smoke Inhalation in Albuquerque House Fire

July 13, 2022

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities conducting an arson investigation at a southeast Albuquerque house fire say a 15-year-old boy whose body was found inside died from smoke inhalation.

Albuquerque Fire Department officials said Sunday it might take about two weeks to complete the investigation to determine the cause of last week’s blaze.

A SWAT team trying to arrest a wanted man allegedly threw tear gas canisters and shot chemical munitions inside the home before the fire started.

“They’ve been used by the Albuquerque Police Department for decades,” Police Chief Harold Medina said. “We’ve heard the stories that it’s possible these could start fires but we’ve never experienced that here.”

Police said Brett Rosenau was found dead inside the home after the fire was put out following a SWAT standoff last Thursday that involved 27-year-old Qiaunt Kelley.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico called on New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to conduct a thorough, independent and transparent investigation into the standoff.

Police said they were trying to arrest Kelley for violating his probation and they also wanted to question him about a recent homicide investigation and an officer involved shooting.

Rosenau followed Kelley into the home before the fire, but police still don’t know if two knew each other beforehand.

Kelley ran from the home as firefighters extinguished the fire, was taken into custody and then transported to a hospital for treatment of burn injuries before being booked into jail.

Police said Kelley refused to talk to investigators and it was unclear Monday if he had a lawyer yet who could speak on his behalf.

The teen wasn’t shot by anyone despite what some bystanders at the scene told authorities, according to police. Autopsy results will be released later by the Office of the Medical Investigator.

“The preliminary results of an autopsy cited the cause of death as smoke inhalation,” police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.

Since the death occurred while police were taking a suspect into custody, a multi-agency task force is conducting a criminal investigation and the results will be forwarded to the District Attorney for review.

Albuquerque police also will conduct an administrative investigation to determine whether any policies were violated.

“In our effort to track down and arrest a violent criminal, a young person tragically lost his life,” Medina said. “I know many people in our community are hurting right now, and appreciate everyone’s patience while the incident is thoroughly investigated. If any of our actions inadvertently contributed to his death, we will take steps to ensure this never happens again.”

Hours after the teen’s body was pulled from the charred home, dozens of people gathered nearby to protest the death, waving signs that said “Black Lives Matter.”

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller expressed his condolences to Rosenau’s family in a statement Sunday, saying “no matter what the circumstances were, a boy’s life was tragically cut short, something no person or parent should experience.”

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