May 18, 2010 11:34 PM by Jim Hummel, Kate Mundy

Man Arrested for Arson in Connection with Apartment Complex Fire

30-year old Clayton Batiste (left) of Lafayette has been arrested in connection with Monday's fire at a Lafayette Apartment Complex.  Batiste is being held on $100,000 bond for a charge of aggravated arson.

Several families are burned out of their apartments at 301 Lodge Drive. They're homeless and angry, knowing that they lost everything because of one man's rage.

Lafayette Fire officials say it stemmed from a domestic dispute. At 9:40 Monday night, Batiste allegedly entered his girlfriend's apartment and threatened to seriously hurt her. Lafayette Fire investigators then say he set the place on fire.

"I was scared, ooh, it was just unbearable, I couldn't believe my eyes what I was seeing," said fire victim Deandre Girouard.

Fire gutted the top apartment, then spread to the place next door. The two bottom floor apartments were smothered in smoke and water. Investigators say this devastation was no accident.

"Speaking to some of the neighbors, they witnessed an argument going on that day, they also witnessed the individual going in with some kind of container in his hand," said Alton Trahan with the Lafayette Fire Department. Fire officials believe it was gasoline in that container.

Resident Casandra Senegal told investigators that her boyfriend entered the apartment threatening to seriously hurt her. He began to splatter the fluid in the living room. She escaped, and that's when witnesses saw flames and a man running to his vehicle.

Neighbor Willie Watson heard the commotion, then saw the flames. He ran over and started knocking on doors to warn people. "I banged on this one, I banged on this one, I ran up the stairs," said Watson.

He braved intense heat and quick moving flames to make sure everyone got out. "The individuals are very fortunate because the fire originated in one apartment coming through the door and it was actually getting into their apartment, so they were able to manage to get low and escape the fire and the flames," said Trahan.

"I was screaming, I was probably screaming at the top of my lungs," said Watson.

The American Red Cross is helping the displaced families with lodging.


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