In the early hours of January 19, 2010, residents on Milwaukee’s East Side awoke to a loud boom. Within minutes, apartments and businesses were engulfed in flames. As the embers dulled, it became clear to investigators they were dealing with arson.
Although no one was mortally wounded in the blast and ensuing fire, the wounds inflicted on the community continue to linger. The loss of one business — Pizza Man — is still a sore spot for many Milwaukeeans.
"It was just a small, kind of takeout chicken and pizza place. And then it kept expanding and it really became this iconic restaurant that was very cozy, dimly lit, great for dates," says Steven Potter, who wrote about the incident in an article titled, "Getting Away With Arson," featured in this month's Milwaukee Magazine.
Investigators quickly identified a suspect, Feras Rahman, the owner of the Black & White Cafe where the fire started. It took more than a year for Rahman to be formally charged and in the end, he was found innocent.
Potter spoke with investigators and some former business owners, who aren't convinced of Rahman's innocence. The case is closed, and Potter says it's unlikely that people will learn who actually caused the blast. That secret seemed to die with the fire.
"Whoever set this fire seems to have gotten away with it. I think after this much time if it hasn't come out now, it will remain a mystery," says Potter.