Alleged Chancellor Street Arsonist Said Some Interesting Things On Facebook
In the early morning hours of September 15th, a fire tore through a construction site at the corner of 13th and Chancellor streets in Center City, displacing dozens of nearby residents and causing an estimated $1 million in damage. The fire was ruled an arson, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms released a surveillance image of a suspect in the case. This week, an arrest was made.
53-year-old Stephen Pettiway was apprehended by federal authorities and charged with arson. Investigators say that he is the man seen in the surveillance photo. After the ATF offered a $5,000 reward, an anonymous caller identified Pettiway as the suspect.
Prosecutors say that investigators pieced together several surveillance videos from the area of the crime and claim that Pettiway can be seen walking south on 13th Street and then west on Chancellor Street moments before the fire erupted. At 4:12 a.m., they say he can be seen walking into the construction site itself. Within seconds, there are flames, and then Pettiway is seen running away.
According to a criminal complaint filed against Pettiway in federal court, his house on the 600 block of West Olney Avenue burned down on September 10th, and that fire is still under investigation.
Pettiway is a contractor, and according to his Facebook page, he is the owner of Unity General Contracting. Prosecutors say there is nothing to indicate that he was working on the 13th and Chancellor site, an upcoming restaurant for former Tashan chef Sylva Senat.
On September 19th, after the surveillance image made its rounds in the media, Pettiway posted the following on Facebook: “Can we say perfect timing I will expose you right before the Pope visit and this will give me enough credit bility to let the world know how you try to discredit someone but it won’t work with me.”
That message was posted along with a link to the following 2014 YouTube video that appears to document a conflict that Pettiway was having with the city and a local union. (Warning: Explicit language.)
Then on September 29th, one day before his arrest, Pettiway posted a new video on Facebook.
“I’m going to keep fighting the city like I been doing,” he says in the video. “Ya know what I mean? And they trying to discredit my character. They put me on TV saying I, I was a man of interest for arson, the whole nine yards in case you guys don’t know. They tried to put me on blast but it didn’t work. It backfired. And listen. Strike one to you guys. Me, I gotta go. I’ll see you guys on the other side. Peace.”
He was arrested the following day. If convicted, Pettiway could face five to twenty years in prison.