ATF agent: Johnson City man orchestrated Rhode Island arson

Tony Casey • Dec 11, 2013 at 9:50 PM

Special agents from the ATF pieced together the details of an attempted apartment building fire in Providence, R.I., and linked it back to a Johnson City man.

According to a federal affidavit, 27-year-old Gbabia Kollie, of 137 Garden Drive, had traveled to Providence in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 incident, and helped mastermind an attempted fire.

Kollie, a native of Liberia, enlisted the help of his future brother-in-law, 19-year-old Nakele Freeman, of Providence, to burn the multi-family rental property building at 31-33 Ida St. at around 3 a.m. on Nov. 2, for a total of $7,000. City of Providence records show Kormahyah Karmue as being the owner of the property.

Through the process of acquiring the materials needed to carry out the fire, obtaining the entry key from its hidden location, and information on how to pull off the fire, communication history showed Kollie was in contact with Freeman on dozens of instances.

Agents were able to obtain surveillance footage from nearby residences and businesses to corroborate Freeman’s story that, on Kollie’s instruction, gasoline, a five-gallon gas container, a clear one-gallon container, a flashlight, plastic gloves, and paper funnels were acquired to pull off the incident on the third story of the building.

Another man, Abraham Kerkula, 20, of Providence, a cousin of Freeman’s, was asked to provide the vehicle because Freeman had told him that he was going to make “a lot of money.”

A witness saw someone matching Freeman’s description unlock and enter the house. Soon after, the witness heard smoke alarms go off within the house and then a loud noise. When the unnamed witness smelled gasoline, he rushed into the building to inform the occupants of the smell of gas.

According to information obtained by investigators, the fire did not go as planned and Freeman rushed from the residence.

Between surveillance footage, cellular phones, and credit card information, investigators were able to trace the story back to Kollie, who Freeman and Kerkula say orchestrated the whole thing.

Kollie is being held on arson and conspiracy to commit arson charges.

Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos