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Friends, family await answers after fire

A woman collapsed in the street, thinking her brother had died.

A man, frantic with worry, attempted to run through the police tape marking off the scene of a possible homicide and suspicious fire.

Dozens of family members and neighbors gathered in the 1400 block of J Street, near Owens Avenue, waiting anxiously for official word from police on whether the body found inside the house was Eddie Heckard, a middle-aged father of three children who resides at the address that became a crime scene on Thursday.

They waited in vain.

Hours after a 911 call summoned emergency responders to the home shortly before 4:30 p.m., Las Vegas police were still trying to sort out what caused the bedroom fire and the death of a man found in the home.

"At this point, it’s a very suspicious death," Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Lew Roberts said.

The fire investigators who discovered the body turned the investigation over to police, Roberts said.

As of Thursday night, Roberts said the dead man had not been identified by the Clark County coroner’s office. Police were trying to determine whether the man died as a result of the small fire or if he was slain. Roberts said the situation might have involved a robbery.

Roberts said no one had been arrested in connection with the case late Thursday.

Police roped off nearly half of the strip mall parking lot across the street from the house because it might have been part of the crime scene. Dozens of family, friends and onlookers became increasingly upset and impatient as they waited for police to identify the victim.

Many in the crowd were visibly shaken and crying. Andre Crockett, a cousin of Heckard, was restrained by family and friends as he tried to rush through the yellow tape after hours of fruitless waiting for the victim’s name. Crockett identified Heckard as the man who lived in house that caught fire.

Tina Fox, who said she grew up in the neighborhood, was disappointed with how police handled the situation.

Fox said she could see Heckard’s mother crying, begging for answers as to who had died.

"This lady is standing out here with expectations that it’s her son in the house," Fox said. "You can at least pull her over and let her know what’s going on."

Roberts acknowledged that the situation was "dynamic." But he said it’s the role of the coroner to identify the body.

"When you have something like this, people are going to be upset, they’re going to be anxious," Roberts said. "It’s human nature."

Several of Heckard’s family members said they believed he might be dead because he was not answering his cell phone and was nowhere to be found.

A group of pastors, who regularly respond to crime scenes in the valley, noticed family and friends getting aggravated and anxious. The pastors pulled individuals off to the side to calm them down and to explain how a police investigation works. They also led the group in singing "Amazing Grace."

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

 

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