A homicide investigation is underway after a man was found dead inside a burning apartment early Friday.
Birmingham police said the victim appears to have been shot and killed before the fire started. The blaze, investigators believe, was likely set to cover up the crime.
The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office identified the victim as Ladarrius Jamiel Brooks. He was 27.
Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service and Birmingham police responded shortly after 4 a.m. to 6 Watertown Circle off Roebuck Parkway after receiving a 911 call from a neighbor reporting smoke coming from the unit. That is Watertown Lodge Apartments adjacent to Ascott Place apartments. Both are off Gadsden Highway and managed by the same company.
Battalion Chief Jackie Hicks said crews arrived to find light smoke, but no fire, showing in one of the first-floor units. They extinguished several hotspots and, after doing so, discovered the homicide victim.
The fire, he said, appears to have started in multiple spots inside the apartment. Yellow crime tape was put up around the building and both fire and police investigators are on the scene. The Birmingham police Crime Scene Unit also responded.
Hicks said the fire was contained to that one apartment, and no other residents were injured or displaced.
Shortly after 6:30 a.m., Birmingham police spokesman Sgt. Rod Mauldin confirmed the death is being investigated as a homicide. He said it’s not clear whether anyone heard the shot or if Shot Spotter detective the gunfire. The body was slightly burned, Mauldin said, and fire officials said others things, such as paper and materials, were set on fire.
“We do not have any suspects in custody so we’re asking for assistance,” he said. “If you heard anything last night coming from that apartment, please give us a call.”
Mauldin said it’s fortunate the fire did not spread and injure others. “Anytime we get a structure fire, we all know they can spread quickly,” he said. “Birmingham Fire and Rescue responded and did an amazing job.”
Brooks is Birmingham’s 90th homicide so far this year. Of those, 14 have been ruled justifiable and once accident and therefore aren’t deemed criminal. In all of Jefferson County, there have been 129 homicides including the 90 in Birmingham.
Anyone with information is asked to call Birmingham police at 205-254-1764 or Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777.