A Bucks County man died Tuesday following a fiery attack on police involving fireworks and ultimately, a fully-engulfed house fire.
It was a situation that Bucks County’s District Attorney said should have never happened, given the man’s prior run-in with the law.
Curtis Fish, 48, had been arrested on rape and kidnapping charges in January and released on bail. He was later arrested again in March after he failed to show up for a court appearance. But his lawyer argued for his release.
“One of the factors, one of the arguments, including that the gentleman had no criminal history, Curtis had longstanding ties to Bucks County,” Lou Busico, Fish’s defense attorney told NBC10 Wednesday. “He was a business owner. His immediate family was here, never convicted nor arrested for a crime on his life, and on top of that you have this COVID-19 situation.”
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, who has agreed to let lower-level criminals out of prison during the COVID-19 pandemic, said he vehemently argued against Fish’s release.
“We opposed his release uniformly and consistently every step of the way- we consider this man to be violent, to be dangerous, and he clearly proved that out.”
Bucks County Common Pleas Judge Raymond F. McHugh approved for Fish to be released on bail April 2 but set him on electronic monitoring.
Still, that did not deter Fish from launching a midday fireworks attack on police as he barricaded himself inside.
Mike Mrozonski owns the tavern next to where Fish lived. On Tuesday morning, Mrozonski said he heard loud noises and banging outside his closed bar.
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“I then went outside the bar and approached male figure and noticed it was Curtis Fish,” a man he has known for 16 years and used to be friends with, Mrozonski said. “He was trying to break the window. We exchanged words. He used vulgar language and was very aggressive. I went back inside to get my cell phone and call 911.”
When police arrived on scene, Fish fled to his home. As he was about to storm in, a police officer tased him. But still, Fish make it inside and barricaded himself in there.
Surveillance video shows fireworks coming out of the house as police surrounded the property. Eventually the home went up in flames. When the flames were extinguished and authorities went inside, they found Fish dead.
The cause of death is pending an autopsy.
Mrozonski lamented that Fish had been released from jail as he awaited to defend his case in court.
“He should have been retained where he was safe and the community was safe,” Mrozonski said.
Larry King, spokesman for the Bucks County prison system, said that Fish was not part of the list of inmates who were approved for early release due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Since mid-March, county officials have been working to reduce the prison population by allowing certain low-risk offenders to be released early and through natural attrition of inmates who came up on the end of their sentences.
The intake of inmates has been a “trickle” to what it was pre-COVID-19, Weintraub said. The idea, like other jurisdictions, is to allow for better social distancing capabilities in the confined environments.
Since March 11, when the inmate population between the county’s correctional facilities was 909, the number of inmates system-wide has dropped by 40% to 545.
More than 60 inmates at the county’s correctional facility have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, 23 corrections staff have also tested positive.
Even though Busico used COVID-19 as an argument to allow Fish to be on house arrest, Weintraub says inmates accused of violent felony crimes like Fish are not ones he is considering for COVID-19 release.
“We would never agree to release a man like Mr. Fish,” he said.