Arrest Warrant: Atlanta Bridge Fire Suspect Smoked Crack Before Fire

Basil Eleby is escorted by his public defender and two Fulton County Sheriff's office officers into the court room at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta on Saturday, April 1, 2017. Eleby, accused of starting a raging fire that collapsed a portion of Interstate 85 a few miles north of …
Henry P. Taylor/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool

A homeless man accused of starting a fire that caused part of a bridge on Interstate 85 in Atlanta to collapse was allegedly smoking crack right before the fire started, according to his arrest warrant obtained by the New York Daily News.

“Basil Eleby, 39, was charged with first degree arson and criminal damage to property.” He was one of three arrested in connection with the fire and is currently “being held in Fulton County jail on a $200,000 bond.”

Jail records show that “Eleby has been arrested 20 times since 2000,” most commonly for drug-trafficking and drug possession.

The fire caused “millions of dollars in damage” to a section of I-85 and caused traffic disruptions that could last for months while the state rebuilds that section of the bridge.

Judge James Altman said he “considered setting a higher bond” for Eleby but, “in this case, that would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The other two suspects, Barry Thomas and Sophia Brauer, were charged with criminal trespassing.

According to the arrest warrant, the three “discussed smoking crack underneath a section of I-85,” however, “Eleby ultimately decided to consume the drugs alone, according to the document.”

According to New York Daily News, “Eleby claims to have left the scene before the fire erupted.”

Thomas said he witnessed Eleby set a chair on a shopping cart on fire as he fled the scene.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said the timeline for reconstruction is still unclear. “We are going to work as quick as we can, as fast as we can, to get done with it,” said Marc Mastronardi, the DOT’s director of construction.