RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) — Police said the man found dead inside a Richmond warehouse that caught fire Friday morning had multiple gunshot wounds.
Police identified the victim as Anthony S. Wheeler, 35, of Charles City.
Richmond officers are now investigating the incident as a homicide.
The fire started around 2:22 a.m. at 2 South Thurman Street near Jefferson Davis Highway. When crews arrived, they found heavy smoke and fire coming from the building.
“Immediately they went to defensive operations until they could get a lot of the fire knocked down,” Lt. Chris Armstrong said. “The fire was marked under control around 6:30 this morning, so about four hours after the initial call.”
It took more than 50 firefighters to get the flames under control and even more time after that before they were able to step foot inside the building.
“The type of materials that were inside and then you add the challenges of the electricity, those things can sometimes slow us down to get in,” Armstrong said.
Power was cut to the building to make sure crews were safe during the knockdown, but Armstrong said what was inside the building created a challenge as well.
“It was roofing material inside the building and those were some of the things that when those things get ignited, it can get really, really hot, really, really fast,” he said.
The building was evacuated as an investigation began, and a total of 53 personnel worked to put the fire out.
“As the [sun] came up, crews were able to go inside and do an extensive search throughout the entire building," Armstrong said. "Unfortunately as a result, they did find an unidentified male who had perished inside.”
With the body found inside, crews called for extra resources to make sure no one else had died in the fire.
“What eventually happened is we got a cadaver dog, a cadaver K-9 to come out, and search to make sure no one else was inside,” Armstrong said.
Wheeler’s body was transported to the Chief Medical Examiner's Office for a cause and manner of death.
Armstrong said the man’s body was found in a separate room from where the fire started.
"It's shocking because it happened so close to where I stay. I didn't hear anything that night and they say it was some sort of explosion. I stay on this side of the building," Matthew Parham said.
Parham lives in the apartment building next to where the fire happened. He knows the victims would see out all the time. “I didn’t believe it. The guy they were asking about is some guy I usually see out here smoking,” Parham said.
Richmond Police brought in their incident command unit and combed through the ash with the ATF.
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