Man killed in Lyell Ave. arson had no living relatives, was in poor health, motive remains a question

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Police officials held a press conference Thursday evening to discuss the update to a recent fatal arson case on Lyell Avenue, as well as new policy procedures the department is implementing.

Fatal arson case

Regarding the arson case, 53-year-old Steven Amenhauser died Tuesday after being “intentionally” set on fire Friday inside his Lyell Avenue apartment.

As a result, 16-year-old Zayvion Perry and a 14-year-old Adriel Riley Jr., both from Rochester, were arrested and charged with arson and assault in connection to the incident. Following Amenhauser’s death Tuesday morning, each teen has since been charged with second degree murder.

RPD Capt. Frank Umbrino said Amenhouser left his apartment to go to a nearby store before the incident occurred.

“He came back from the store and entered his apartment and about five minutes after he entered his apartment he came out of it on fire,” Umbrino said. “There were people who tried to help, render aid, and put out the fire. RPD and RFD responded and he was taken to the Burn Trauma Unit until he passed away at about four o’clock this morning.”

Umbrino said Amenhauser was a Texas native who had no living relatives. He was living alone in the apartment the crime was committed.

“Steven was doused with a flammable liquid while sitting in the chair of his apartment, then he was intentionally set on fire,” Umbrino said.

Umbrino said the victim was in declining health. He added that he was not related to the two teens who were arrested, but he was familiar with them.

The RPD captain said he couldn’t get into the details of the evidence that led to the arrest, but he said he was confident the two teens who were charged were the ones who committed the crime.

When asked about possible motives, Umbrino said there was nothing to point to about drugs being involved, and he said he couldn’t comment on any potential gang involvement.

“I don’t think anyone is prepared to say why this happened,” Umbrino said.

Officials from the district attorney’s office say that due to the Raise the Age legislation, Perry will be prosecuted as an adolescent offender and remain in youth part of Superior court. Riley Jr. will be prosecuted as a juvenile offender and his case will remain in youth court.

“Youth Part is a criminal court where adolescent offenders and juvenile offenders remain subject to criminal liability as adults,” officials from the district attorney’s office said. “Neither defendant will be transferred to family court at this time.”

Officials say Perry is being held on $50,000 cash bail, $100,000 secured bond and $150,000 partially secured bond. Riley Jr. is being held no bail, no release.

Both are being held at the Monroe County Children’s Center, a secured facility, officials say.

New policies

On the department’s new policies, several of which have already been implemented and more are expected to be announced in the coming days and weeks.

Monday the department announced new policies of “duty to intervene” and a “chokehold ban” which were effective as of the announcement of which. According to police officials, details on these new policies are as follows:

Duty to Intervene:

  • All members have duty to intervene to prevent or stop any unreasonable use of force or other misconduct
  • Members failing to intervene can result in discipline or remedial measures
  • Any intervention must be reported to a supervisor as soon as practical
  • Supervisors must address the behavior

Chokehold ban:

  • Police Officers are prohibited from using chokeholds except in extreme circumstances where deadly physical force is authorized.
  • The policy includes information regarding the new NYS Penal Law – Aggravated Strangulation

“All members and employees of the police department have a duty to intervene, and we think that’s critical,” RPD Executive Deputy Chief Andre Anderson said Tuesday. “We also have measures for officers who don’t intervene, where we’ll look at what transpired and hold people accountable.”

Next week the department plans on releasing new policy measures for mental hygiene detention and de-escalation policy. In the weeks to follow the department plans to release new policies on use of force and juvenile detention.

Deputy Chief Anderson said he was confident that all the new policies could be rolled out within the next three weeks.

“The releases [of new policy] are issued in a series to ensure proper disseminating and implementation, while allowing time for all RPD members to property train on and acclimate to the changes,” RPD Capt. Mark Mura said Monday.

A 2020 executive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced all police departments statewide to provide community-approved policy measures by April 1, 2021 or risk losing state funding.

Full RPD press conference

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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