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Man faces charges in southeast Oak Cliff apartment explosion, Dallas police say

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.

Phillip Dankins, 28, faces seven counts of deadly conduct.
Members of Dallas Fire and Rescue
Members of Dallas Fire and Rescue work on scene following an apartment explosion and fire on Highland Hills Drive in southeast Dallas, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. A natural-gas explosion tore apart the building injuring people and firefighters who arrived on scene to investigate the smell of natural gas. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)(Tom Fox)

By Michael WilliamsCatherine Marfin and Hojun Choi

A man faces felony charges after Dallas police say they connected him to an apartment explosion in southeast Oak Cliff last month that injured several residents and firefighters.

Phillip Dankins, 28, faces seven counts of deadly conduct. He has been in the Dallas County jail since early October on other charges; police said they obtained the deadly conduct warrants Tuesday.

Although police said in a written statement that Dankins was “associated with the explosion,” they declined to provide details.

Residents reported hearing gunfire the night before the explosion.

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Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said investigators believe Dankins shot into an apartment and damaged a gas line that was connected to a stove. While firefighters were investigating the gas leak the next morning, something ignited the gas fumes that had accumulated in the apartment, Evans said.

It was unclear what led to the shooting, but KTVT-TV (Channel 11) said the mother of Dankins’ child lived at the complex.

Police investigating a burglary call in Mesquite arrested Dankins on Oct. 2 after he allegedly ran from them, according to court documents. Authorities said they found drugs and a .380 Ruger handgun in his backpack.

His lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment. Dankins was being held Tuesday evening on $100,000 bail, but that does not include the charges of deadly conduct. He also faces charges of aggravated assault, possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The explosion at the Highland Hills Apartments in the 5700 block of Highland Hills Drive occurred about 10:30 a.m. Sept. 29. Firefighters were investigating reports of a gas leak when the blast occurred.

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Authorities previously said eight people — including four firefighters — were injured in the explosion. Officials said Tuesday that three civilians were hurt.

Philip Dankins
Philip Dankins(The Dallas Morning News / Dallas County Jail)

One of the firefighters was released from the hospital last week while the two others remain hospitalized. The other people who were hurt were treated and released the day of the blast.

The corner of a two-story building with 10 apartments collapsed, and debris was thrown 20 to 30 yards from the blast. The building where the explosion happened was torn down later that same day because of its instability.

As of this week, about 250 residents are still displaced from their homes.

In the weeks since the explosion, residents have faced break-ins, a car fire and what they’ve described as an apathetic response from apartment management.

Kayla Aguilar, who was displaced because of the explosion, said news of the charges isn’t helping her sleep easier.

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Aguilar, whose apartment was burglarized after the blast, said she is still dealing with complications that arose after residents were displaced.

“While it is not surprising, it doesn’t give us any peace of mind, either,” she said.

Last week residents who were displaced were notified that the city wouldn’t pay for hotel stays for them past this week, as utilities were expected to be restored to most of the buildings in the complex.

City officials told The Dallas Morning News that the stability of two buildings adjacent to the explosion site probably would not be determined until the end of the month.

Police Chief Eddie García praised the work of his department, as well as Dallas Fire-Rescue investigators and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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“The relentless follow-up conducted by these men and women is exactly what our community expects and deserves,” García said. He declined to provide additional details about the case.

Mayor Eric Johnson said Tuesday that he was thankful for authorities’ diligent investigation of the blast.

“I am grateful to our police department, our fire department and our federal partners for doggedly investigating the cause of this horrific explosion, which left our brave firefighters injured and forced hundreds of our residents out of their homes,” he said. “For their sake and for our community’s safety, justice must be served.”

Staff writers Kelli Smith and Krista Torralva contributed to this report.

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