Arsonist in 1988 fire that killed six firefighters asking to be set free

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - One of the people found guilty of intentionally setting a fire in 1988, which killed six Kansas City firefighters, is now asking to be released from prison immediately. 

Bryan Sheppard is currently serving a life sentence without parole. 
 
He is one of five defendants that were convicted of setting a deadly fire, which caused two explosions, at a south-central Kansas City construction site in 1988. At the time, Sheppard was 17 years old. 
 
This week his attorney filed a motion in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City arguing that Sheppard’s sentence of life without parole is “unconstitutional," citing two U.S. Supreme Court decisions. 
 
 
The motion argues, based on current law Sheppard could only legally be sentenced to 10 years since he was 17-years-old at the time. 
 
Sheppard has maintained his innocence. 
 
Aftermath of the Fire 
 
The fire triggered an explosion of a storage container filled with 25,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a common ingredient in fertilizer. 
 
Six firefighters responding to the call died. It is the biggest loss the Kansas City Fire Department has experienced. 
 
“Our dispatchers did notify them that there were some hazardous materials there. But we didn’t know what was there or the amount that was there as well,” said Deputy Chief James Garrett of the Kansas City Fire Department. " It really changed firefighting as we know it.” 
 
After the incident, fire departments across the country created HazMat units. Buildings are now also required to have placards outside detailing what chemicals might be on site. 
 
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Ariel Rothfield can be reached at Ariel.Rothfield@KSHB.com.

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