NYPD officials said it will take some time to figure out exactly what was lost and the impact it will have on cold case and cases up for appeal.
The fire at the Erie Basin Auto Pound, a low warehouse situated atop a long, curving breakwater on the Brooklyn waterfront, broke out at around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said. Police Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey, who joined Hodgens at a briefing at the fire scene, said the facility is used to store DNA evidence from crime scenes as well as e-bikes, motorbikes and cars.
“It’s mainly evidence, but we store other things there as well,” he said.
Dr. Darrin Porcher, a retired NYPD lieutenant, said the loss of evidence will tremendously impact cases where defendants are looking to appeal as well as cold cases. Cold cases are very difficult to solve and any and all evidence can be important, he explained.
“We expect the NYPD and district attorneys to provide us a full accounting of the evidence that was damaged and to immediately inform defense counsel about individual cases that may have been impacted,” a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society said.
It may take days before investigators are able to get inside as the FDNY is still working on putting out hot spots.
“We don’t know the severity of the damage inside,” Maddrey said.
On Wednesday, the cause of the blaze was still under investigation.
Stuart Kaplan, a retired FBI special agent who is familiar with the facility, said precinct police stations typically house evidence in active cases, while warehouses like this one typically store evidence in cold cases.
“If the fire has destroyed potential evidence that had been DNA evidence and they were just waiting for that break — and that break could be 10, 20 years down the road — unfortunately it may be not be possible to hold ultimately somebody responsible for that crime for which that DNA would be relevant,” Kaplan said.