Originally created 05/28/03

Fire hero arrested again - this time on assault charge



ABILENE, Texas -- A man who rescued four children from a burning apartment and was arrested shortly afterward on a probation violation returned to jail over the weekend after being arrested on an assault charge.

Kris Leija, 23, was arrested Friday night on a charge of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. He remained in jail Monday in lieu of $10,000 bail.

The arrest stemmed from a fight between Leija and his 15-year-old brother, Abilene police Sgt. Scott Rowley said. Leija is accused of hitting his brother in the chest with a shovel. Rowley did not believe the injuries were serious.

"Without an X-ray, I don't know, but what was seen at the scene did not appear to be that substantial," he said.

Sam Moore, Leija's attorney, said he hadn't spoken with Leija or his family.

"I haven't heard from him yet," Moore said Monday. "All I know is what I read in the paper. I'm sure his family is mad at him."

On April 27, Leija ran into a burning apartment complex three times, pulling four young children - including an infant in a car seat - from the complex. Video footage showed Leija collapsing on his hands and knees from apparent exhaustion afterward.

A day later, Leija was arrested for a probation violation after a deputy recognized him when he appeared on television with the children's grandmother. He was on probation for a burglary of Abilene High School last July, and authorities said he failed to meet with his probation officer the month before the fire.

Fire investigators later fingered Leija in the ensuing arson investigation in part because of discrepancies in his account of the night's events. Leija has told reporters that he was driving to a relative's house and pulled over when he saw flames. He has also said he was walking to a store, or that he was riding a bicycle to a relative's home.

The story of Leija's arrest made national headlines, drawing the ire of many who said local officials were arresting a hero.