War of Words Over Deadly Building Collapse Responsibility - KMSP-TV

War of Words Over Deadly Building Collapse Responsibility

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The criminal investigation into last week's deadly building collapse went high tech Tuesday as Montgomery County crime scene experts used a laser scanner to help city police recreate the collapse scene at 22nd and Market Streets where six people lost their lives.

"I believe there's a rush to judgement. I believe my client is being scapegoated," said Attorney Daine Grey Jr., who represents accused backhoe operator Sean Benschop, now charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, risking a catastrophe and reckless endangerment.  

The investigation went on as new information surfaced about accused excavator operator Sean Benschop. City officials now confirm he was approved to do city demolition work and had five recent city contracts to do demolition projects totaling about $75,000. Included in that work  was a demolition on page street and an unfinished job on 63rd Street. Tyrone Thompson lives up the block.

"They used a backhoe for this," Thompson told FOX 29. "It was pretty professional. They weren't bad guys."

The mayor's spokesman says Benschop met the city's qualifications to tear down "imminently dangerous" structures. He had the proper insurance and disclosed his prior criminal record before his firm, S & R Contracting,  did work on city demolition projects.

Lex Allen lives next door to one of Benschop's job sites. "As far as I'm concerned he did a professional job, he just never finished it," Allen said.

"I know that he did not have any concerns about Mr. Benschop's fitness," said the attorney for contractor Griffin Campbell, who hired Benschop to operate this huge back hoe. He spoke out on behalf of his client Tuesday, saying he is not to blame for the collapse.

"He is absolutely not responsible. His directions were clear. He was not operating the excavator. The excavator was not to be used for demolition purposes in that part of the building," Kenneth Edelin told a packed afternoon press conference.

"My client only followed orders and directions given by his superiors on the site. Period," Grey told FOX 29.

"How come the lowest man on the totem pole is being publicly dragged through the mud while the two people who may be more culpable than anybody have a secret grand jury process," Grey added, referring to the contractor and the property owners.

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