WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A Utah man says he's in shock after a neighbor allegedly set his house on fire Thursday, just after the same neighbor allegedly shot and killed a West Valley City code enforcement officer.
Ryan Luke spent his Thursday morning like he would any other, working in his home office.
“I was just working away and I hear what sounds like a gunshot,” Luke said. “I thought a tire blew out.”
Twenty minutes later, he heard something else.
“Just, BOOM!,” Luke exclaimed, describing the explosion that occurred at his home. “I feel a percussion wave up through my body just like a pressure drop, I can’t explain the feeling."
Luke said he knew something was wrong and ran downstairs where he saw smoke billowing from his basement window.
“When I first opened the door and felt the heat and felt that smoke, you don’t even smell it, it just punches you in the throat and your sinuses, and tells your brain, get away,” Luke explained. “All I cared about was saving my pets."
Luke's cat and five dogs were trapped inside the home.
“I kept running out, big deep breath, run back in, screaming, reaching through, I hear one sound from a dog and it’s just like (mimics the sound of a dog whimpering),” Luke said. “I’m reaching through the handrail trying to get them and they’re not coming, they’re not coming."
Paramedics directed Luke to a grassy patch across the street where he watched as his house burned with his pets inside.
“I feel like I should have done more,” Luke said.
It wasn’t until he was outside that he realized the magnitude of what had happened. Luke saw a body in his neighbor's driveway, it belonged to an unarmed code enforcement officer that had gone to the property for a routine follow-up.
“He was a hoarder, there was a serious problem going on there,” Luke said of his neighbor.
Police said 64-year-old Kevin Billings first lit code enforcement officer Jill Robinson's company car on fire.
“He felt victimized I think, but he just couldn’t stop breaking the law,” Luke said before listing off a number of items that consumed Billings’ backyard.
Police said Billings then set his sights on Luke's home.
“[Billings] said the city had details that only we would know,” Luke said. “I didn’t even know their names and I talked to them for maybe four minutes in four years,” he added.
Police believe Billings pulled out a gun and pulled the trigger, killing Robinson.
“He had a look in his eyes like, ‘I’ve done what I need to do,’” Luke said. “It is just sick, it’s so sick and so senseless.”
Billings now faces felony charges for murder and arson.
Luke got away from the fire with only minor injuries, but his house is a total loss.
“I didn’t think this guy was going to try and kill me or light up my house,” Luke said.
Not one of his six family pets made it out.
“They’re my kids, man. I don’t have any other way to say it. I love them. They can’t be replaced. I just hope they went quickly. That’s all I hope for," Luke said.
A donation fund has been set up at the West Valley City Animal Care Center where Luke’s wife works. They say any help would be appreciated.