Man gets 3 years for setting house on fire, admitting to it during livestream

A North Lawndale man has pleaded guilty to setting an occupied home on fire, a crime he repeatedly admitted to committing while live streaming footage of firefighters battling the blaze.

Judge William Hooks sentenced Edward Robinson, 20, to three years in prison for setting the fire while two people were inside one of the building’s apartments last September.

Edward Robinson and a frame from the video he streamed from the crime scene. | CPD; Citizen

“I’m live on the Citizen app! Gang!” Robinson said as he streamed footage from the scene. 

Citizen’s founders claim the app improves public safety by telling users about unverified police and fire department radio traffic. It also lets users live-stream videos from crime scenes.

“Hey y’all. I’m gonna be honest with y’all,” Robinson said as a Chicago Fire Department truck rumbled nearby. “I just caused this fire with this torch in my pocket.”

He then lowered his phone to reveal a lighter poking out of his pants.

“The person recording is the reason this fire is happening,” Robinson said again, in case investigators missed his first few confessions. “I caused this fire with this lighter.” the man says, panning his camera from the fire to the lighter in his pants.

As he crossed the street to where bystanders and victims who lost their homes to the blaze were watching, a boy pedaled up on a bicycle.

“Who did that?” the boys asked.

“Me.”

“Wow,” the boy responded.

A police spokesperson said a 50-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl were in one of the building’s apartments when the fire started around 6:30 p.m. September 9, 2021, in the 1500 block of South Christiana. A witness rang their doorbell and told them to get out of the house because it was on fire.

All three floors of the building suffered significant damage in the blaze, which started in a dumpster and spread to the porch, according to prosecutors.

The state will cut Robinson’s sentence in half for good behavior, and he will receive credit for 218 days he spent in custody before pleading. He is scheduled to be released from prison on March 9.

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