The negro accused of starting the raging fire that destroyed part of Interstate 85 north of downtown Atlanta was talking about smoking crack just before the blaze began, according to his arrest affidavit.
Basil Eleby told city and federal investigators that he had discussed smoking crack cocaine with two companions under the highway overpass before deciding to do the drug alone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday.
Jail records show Eleby has been arrested 19 times since 1995, mostly on drug charges. Accused of starting the fire below the elevated highway, Eleby now faces charges of first-degree arson and first-degree property damage.
Sophia Brauer and Barry Thomas were arrested along with Eleby on Friday, both charged with criminal trespass in the area used to store state-owned construction materials and equipment.
“We believe they were together when the fire was set and Eleby is the one who set the fire,” Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jay Florence said.
Flames and smoke billowed high above Atlanta’s skyline Thursday. The fire burned so hot that the concrete and steel overpass disintegrated, crippling traffic in a city known for dreadful rush-hour congestion.