NEW YORK — A woman burned to death in the elevator of her Brooklyn apartment building Saturday afternoon after a man ambushed her, sprayed her with liquid and set her afire with a Molotov cocktail, police said.
The unidentified man was waiting for the woman, who was in her 60s, when the elevator doors opened to her floor of the Prospect Heights building. The man sprayed her with an accelerant and set her on fire, New York City police spokesman Paul Browne said.
"It was apparent he knew she was on the elevator," he said.
The brutal attack happened shortly after 4 p.m., lasted about a minute and was recorded by two video cameras, including one inside the small elevator.
As the elevator doors opened to the fifth floor where the woman's apartment was located, the assailant stepped in and sprayed the woman, Browne said.
The woman, who had grocery bags in her arms, turned about 180 degrees and then crouched in an attempted to protect herself, he said. But the man sprayed her directly in the face and continued to spray her "sort of methodically" over her head and parts of her body as the bags draped off her arms. She turned around and retreated to the back of the elevator.
At some point, Browne said, the suspect then pulled out a barbeque-style lighter, used it to ignite a rag in a bottle and then waited for a few seconds before using the flames to set her afire, causing smoke to fill the elevator.
The man backed out as the woman fell to the floor of the elevator, Browne said, and seemed to pause before tossing the bottle inside the elevator onto the woman.
Browne would not comment on the motive in the killing, but said the suspect knew his victim. Police did not identify the woman pending notification of relatives.
Investigators believe the suspect fled down the stairs of the building, he said.
Police released still images of the man Saturday night, showing him in a black jacket, wearing what appear to be surgical gloves and with a white dust mask perched atop his head like a pair of sunglasses. He is holding what appears to be a canister with a nozzle and spraying as he steps into the elevator.
Neighbors reported a fire in the building, unaware that the woman, who police declined to identify, was burning to death in the elevator.
Residents were evacuated from the six-story building for hours Saturday night.