RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada man who was spotted running from a burning Reno apartment building with a gas can in his hand has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to two murder charges in the 2020 fire.
Two women died and 13 people were injured, some while jumping from second-floor windows to escape the pre-dawn flames that destroyed the eight-unit apartment complex southeast of downtown on July 20, 2020.
Brian Bandy, 35, of Sun Valley pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon in the deaths of Katherine White, 70, and Diana Engstrom, 51. They died of smoke inhalation inside their apartments.
Washoe District Judge Kathleen Sigurdson sentenced Bandy on Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A man who saw Bandy running with the gas can and jump into a car called 911 then followed him until police were able to initiate a traffic stop and take him into custody, prosecutors said. Police said an investigation revealed Bandy owed money to someone living in the apartment complex and had argued with that person in the weeks before the fire.
Investigators said Bandy poured gasoline on wooden steps outside one of the apartments and lit it on fire. By the time firefighters arrived about 5:30 a.m., the building was already engulfed in flames and thick black smoke.
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks said the eight families who lived at the complex on Broadway Boulevard lost their life’s possessions. He praised the witness who called police and followed Bandy as he fled.
“His selfless acts are highly commendable and helped bring this defendant to justice,” Hicks said in a statement Friday.