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Neighbor says man killed in fire was veteran struggling since time in Afghanistan

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  A veteran survived Afghanistan only to lose his life in an early morning house fire -- and now, his neighbors say his death could've been prevented.

According to James Garrett with the Kansas City Fire Department, one person was killed in a house fire at W. 41st Street and Holly in the Volker neighborhood in Midtown. The fire was reported at about 8:30 a.m., Sunday.

Authorities did not identify the victim, but neighbors told FOX 4's Rebecca Gannon the victim's name is Mike, and said he lived upstairs, which is where the fire was.

Neighbors said Mike was a veteran who had returned from Afghanistan, and said his behavior was "unpredictable" at best.

"We were both kind of waiting for that day when we heard the gunshot, and they found him dead," said neighbor Eric Knight. "But instead, this is what happened."

Knight said he came out of his home to see the home in flames.

"There's someone who's just driving by and they're in their pajamas, and they're banging on the house and screaming 'fire!'" Knight recalled.

Fire engulfed the upstairs apartment, firefighters found a young man inside.

I've seen him before, just going in and out, but I don't know his name or nothing," said Ray Camelillo, another neighbor.

"They found our neighbor Mike up there. And Mike's a veteran who came back from Afghanistan," Knight explained.

Knight said Mike's personality could be upbeat at times, but other times, he showed signs of struggle.

"There were days when he would come up and be super personable and really chatty, and then there were days that you could just see, like, the cloud,  or the darkness come over him," he said.

Police recently responded to this address for an assault. Neighbors said that house, now surrounded with crime scene tape, was surrounded by SWAT teams last month.

"It's really frustrating that this is happening, not just next door, but everywhere. A million next doors," Knight said.

Firefighters are still working to determine the cause of the fire, but said there were no working smoke detectors in the house.

The home was a rental property, and it is law in Kansas City that all smoke detectors work at any dwelling in city limits.

If you need them, smoke detectors are available to all Kansas City residents for free at any fire station.

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