An Edison, N.J., police officer is behind bars, accused of setting the home of his captain ablaze while the family of five was asleep inside. Flames, believed to be from a Molotov cocktail thrown at the two-story home, came within inches of where Captain Mark Anderko's two children were sleeping, but the kids along with his wife and 92-year-old mother all made it out uninjured.
Officer Michael A. Dotro, who's been with the Edison Police Department for 10 years, was questioned about the Monday morning incident Wednesday evening. The next day, investigators returned with a warrant to search the cop's home in Manalapan, N.J., according to Dotro's lawyer Lawrence Bitterman. Following the search, Dotro was arrested and charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated arson. Bail was set at $5 million.
"My client tells me it makes him sick to his stomach that he's been accused of this," Bitterman told ABC News. He says his client will plead not guilty and ask for bail. "I've known him for 12 years and find it absolutely incomprehensible that he could have done this," said Bitterman.
Dotro has been suspended with pay and was arraigned in New Brunswick, NJ this afternoon.
One law enforcement official told ABC News that Dotro has a "long history of disciplinary issues," including complaints against him of police brutality.
According to a series of reports by the Star Ledger, officer Dotro was accused of being one of the chief suspects in a 2008 theft of a police car, but after an investigation, was not criminally charged. Dotro was also accused of police brutality in 2005 after arresting a member of the township's sizeable Asian-Indian community. But, according to the Star Ledger, Dotro was cleared amid community protests and headlines.
The Edison PD, one of New Jersey's largest police departments, has spent years embroiled in an ugly civil war that has, at times, spilled into public view. Dotro and his captain are known to be on opposing sides of the internecine battling.
Sources tell ABC News that Anderko had recently written a harsh review of Dotro that could hinder the officer's chances of a promotion.
Bitterman insisted his client has no harsh feelings towards the captain.
"Officer Dotro expresses his deepest condolences to Captain Anderko and his family," said Bitterman.
After numerous incidents, the state Attorney General's Office has taken a more aggressive role in overseeing the conduct of the Edison Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit, receiving monthly reports and reviewing cases. This new incident could lead the AG to invoke the state law that allows the state to take over the Edison force, a state official said.
"They used to just use IA to go after each other," the official told ABC News. "But this takes it to a whole new level."