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Storage facility tenants outraged over demolition

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Scott Engle - Montgomery County Police Reporter

More than 20 tenants hoping to salvage their belongings at an Atascocita storage facility that was set on fire over the weekend were not allowed passed the gates Tuesday while demolition crews tore down the structure. Metro Mini Storage located at 20535 West Lake Houston Parkway near near Upper Lake was allegedly destroyed early Sunday morning by a 19-year-old former Special Ed student from Atascocita North, according to the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office. Owners of property stored in the large complex had been waiting patiently to enter the complex since Sunday to recover damaged property or determine if anything of theirs was damaged. Almost 20 tenants of the storage facility arrived Tuesday afternoon to find crews using backhoes to load debris into large Dumpsters on the property. The owner of the storage facility would not allow anyone to enter. A few business owners were able to convince him to check their units and recover a few items to run their business. A few others sent cameras in with one of the workers to photograph their property. But yet others stood and watched as the demolition continued. Tenants also wondered how the arsonist, Benjamin James Patrick La Chappelle, was able to access the property when the fire was set. One woman had all her belongings in a climate-controlled unit. Books from the 1800’s, antiques and other items she stored when she was forced to move back to Houston to care for her ailing mother. Another person who found her insurance covered her property was told her adjuster would not be able to enter the property. Being visible from the road and surrounded by a 6-foot wrought iron fence on the sides, most tenants said they felt the facility was secure. However, behind the facility on a power line easement, only a wooden fence with visibly patched holes protects it. Deputies with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the scene several times because the owner felt threatened and to remove trespassers on the outside of the gated facility. La Chappelle is currently in the Harris County Jail on $10,000 bond.

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