Man charged with setting Rogers Park fire that killed one not guilty
January 3, 2013 11:44PM
Mahad Ali Hassan / Photo from Cook County Sheriff's office
A Somali immigrant charged with setting fire to his neighbors’ Rogers Park apartment — killing one person and injuring five others — was found not guilty by reason of insanity on Thursday.
Mahad Ali Hassan, 29, had been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson and unlawful use of a weapon after a fire on Jan. 14, 2010 in an apartment in the 6700 block of North Sheridan, authorities said.
On Thursday, Judge Charles Burns found Hassan not guilty by reason of insanity after a bench trial, Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Andy Conklin said.
Hassan will be sent for a mental health evaluation in Elgin and return to court on Jan. 31, when results will be presented and a course of action determined.
Hassan, who lived on the fourth floor, allegedly poured gasoline in the hallway and ignited a blaze outside the fifth-floor apartment of two women with whom he had an ongoing feud, prosecutors said.
Arson investigators also found evidence that gasoline was used to ignite a second fire on the fifth floor outside the apartment of Noor Surani, 49, who died of smoke and soot inhalation, prosecutors said.
Five other people were injured, including one man who jumped from the top floor during the blaze. Of the five injured — including two firefighters — only the jumper suffered serious injuries, according to Fire Media Affairs.
The blaze engulfed that fifth-floor hallway, entered one unit and burned a small area on the fourth floor. A witness spotted Hassan leaving the building stairwell minutes before smoke alarms went off. Investigators found a red gas can with his fingerprints on it in the stairwell, prosecutors said.
Two weeks before the blaze, someone had robbed the mailboxes of the women Hassan had feuded with and wrote “f - - - you” on their apartment door in red spray paint, prosecutors said.
A search of Hassan’s apartment turned up receipts for the spray paint and mail addressed to the women, prosecutors said.
Hassan was found on the North Side on Jan. 15, and when police arrested him, he allegedly made an abrupt move with his left hand reaching for the small of his back, where police found a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol, prosecutors said.
He has been held in the Cook County Jail without bond.