Can I get anybody interested in this cold case?

Somebody I used to work with told me the following story: he was working at a big-box retail outlet (I’m pretty sure it was a Target or Gemco store) in the mid 1980’s. The manager of the store chained the fire escape at the back of the store shut to deter shoplifting. There was a fire, and a woman and her young grandson were killed. Their bodies were found on the floor beneath the chained door. However, the manager somehow managed to get to the door before the fire investigators arrived and removed the chain to evade culpability. Even though we’re talking 20+ years here, I still think the asshole should be held accountable. Also, the parents are likely both still alive and deserve to know that their child died because of criminal negligence. What would be the best way to approach this?

Your story is 2nd handed, so I believe it has no substance. However, if there is a first hand witness to the event, then the story has merit. It should be taken to the district attorney in that city by that witness. By witness, I mean someone who actually saw the manager take off the chain keeping the door locked.

That’s the key all right, seeing him remove the chain.
Just knowing it was kept chained, but was not chained when the investigators arrived, is not enough to bring to bring into court.
Although, it’s possible that if something like that was suspected all along, because of chain marks on the door, then an investigator might get a confession if he could convince the man a witness had been found.

Wait, he took the chain off (which I assume was on the inside), with two people laying dead next to the door?

I see some issues with this…
Why didn’t the fire department notice the chains while they were putting the fire out.
Why didn’t this get noticed during routine fire inspections?
No one reported the manager to the fire department, corporate HQ, or even OSHA?

Something just dosen’t seem right. They only way I can see this happening is if the time between the door being chained shut and the fire was rather short, a few months at most.

Yeah, I know—the same questions occurred to me. I recently heard from the person who told me this story. He sent me a message on YouTube a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I can figure out a way to get more information without tipping him off that I want to report it. He’s definitely not a boat rocker—I’m pretty sure he would just zip right up if he knew that I want to go to the authorities.

I see two major problems here.

First, you do not know for a fact that the events occurred as related to you.

Second, if I were trying to flee a burning building and found that a door wouldn’t open, I’d immediately move on to find another exit. They were able to make it to the door, but just happened to succumb the moment they found it? The “bodies were found on the floor beneath the chained door” just screams made-up story to me. It’s too neat.

And third, :smiley: what kind of person, knowing that such a thing happened, wouldn’t report it to the authorities right away? If I’d let that slide, I’d be too embarassed to ever tell anyone about it.

The people who say it’s unlikely, or that no fire could start within a few monts, or that victims wouldn’t be near the door, don’t read the papers much. There are lots of such incidents, and the big killers are at places like nightclubs, but can be anywhere.
I’ve worked in lots of places like small stores and big warehouses where the there was a big sign “This door to remain unlocked during business hours” but it was always locked.
If a person reaches a locked door, can’t see where another would be, maybe can get some air or shout or pound the door, they would be found right there.
Failure to report is odd, but sometimes the authorities keep saying the thing is being investigated and they are interviewing all concerned, and the witness just sits waiting to be called, or figures they must have the same information he does.

I’d call the non-emergency line for the police in the area, advise them of all the information you have, realize going in that they will want your friends’ name and contact information and leave it to them to Investigate the crime & decide what has merit to pursue.

The incidents I’ve read about have many people unable to leave because they’re crowding the exits. If there were many people found dead by the door, I might find it more plausibe. But only two, and at the back of the store? If others tried to use that exit, they would have either pulled those two to safety, or died there with them. How likely is it that out of a whole storeful of people, only those two would have gone to a door at the back of the store - while everyone else is going out the front?

How so? Upon reaching a chained door (presumably padlocked, or they would have simply untied the chain), it’s quite obvious that there’s no way it’s going to open - from either side. Whether you can see another exit or not, you KNOW you’re not going to get out from where you are. The only chance is to move on.

Sorry, I’m not convinced that it’s a plausible scenario.

That’s possible. My father-in-law is retired Los Angeles Fire Dept., and he worked in that area of the San Fernando Valley (Granada Hills) during that time period. He doesn’t remember a case resembling this. He told me he would talk to some of his buddies about it, but so far he hasn’t gotten back to me.

People don’t react rationaly in a fire. They run straight past open doors, they stand there fanning the flames, they crowd against unlocked doors that open inwards, crushing whoever was trying to open it. A woman trying desperatly to open a padlocked door right until smoke got her seems entirely plausible to me. Not saying this happened, mind you.

This is one reason fire-drills are so important. People need to have the right thing to do drilled in, otherwise they just run around untill they die.

I read urban-legends for a hobby. I’ve studied them a lot.
And the OP’s story has all the hallmarks.

I’m not saying it is, just maybe have a look about the media / internet and see if you can find stories that seem to just a bit too similar to be coincidences.

Sounds like a variant on the “Walmart chains workers in at night” story. Here’s a link to reposting of a New York Times article on the subject, which includes rumors about locked fire doors.

People undergo significant mental impairment when panicked. When the first skyscrapers went up, investigators found a regular pattern of people dying in basements during office fires. People would flee down the stairs and not stop until they reached the bottom level, then were unable to figure out how to then leave the basement. The fire code was modified so that barriers are placed on fire stairs on the ground floor specifically to prevent this.