FDNY makes first lithium-ion battery arrest at Flatbush bike shop

lithium-ion battery arrest
The owner of a Flatbush Avenue e-bike shop was arrested for improper storage of lithium-ion batteries.
Photo courtesy of FDNY

A Brooklyn merchant wound up in fire marshals’ handcuffs for improper storage of highly-flammable lithium-ion batteries inside his business — the first arrest of its kind ever reported in New York City, FDNY officials announced Monday.

Tian Liang Liu, of the Electric Bicycle Shop at 1239 Flatbush Ave., was taken into custody on April 12 in a rare criminal action by the FDNY. Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh outlined the details of the arrest during a Monday press conference at the FDNY’s MetroTech headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn.

fire commissioner lithium-ion battery arrest
Fire commissioner Laura Kavanagh said the FDNY had made multiple visits to the storefront. Photo by Dean Moses

“The FDNY E-safety task force made up of the Bureau of Fire prevention, our Special Investigations Unit, and Fire Investigations conducted an inspection,” Kavanagh explained. “Fire marshals arrested Tian Liang Liu and brought him to the 70th Precinct to be charged.”

The arrest occurred, Kavanagh noted, on the fourth visit fire marshals made to the Flatbush repair stop after three previous inspections dating back to last September over improper battery storage. According to FDNY brass, the department issued summonses in September before returning in January and then again earlier in April before finally making the arrest on Friday. 

The fire code violations included improper storage of batteries as well as selling E-bikes without certification. The FDNY says that lithium-ion batteries have the potential to randomly explode, causing a massive fireball. Three people were killed and more than a dozen were injured by a lithium-ion battery fire in Crown Heights last fall, and at least two dozen people were displaced by a similar fire in February. Brooklyn has also seen a number of fires at e-bike stores and storage facilities over the last few years. 

Despite the violations and stern warnings, officials said, Liu allegedly made no changes to the way in which he was storing and charging lithium-ion batteries.

fdny lithium-ion battery storage
The owner did not make changes to the way he stored the batteries, per the FDNY. Photo courtesy of FDNY

“This is the fourth time we were there, and they’ve made no changes whatsoever to make their behavior better. So, that’s the reason why this rose to that level where it required an arrest,” Chief Fire Marshal Dan Flynn said.

“This weekend as an example: there were five fires involving lithium-ion batteries. There were 10 in the last week. The problem isn’t going away,” Kavanagh said.

Liu is charged with reckless endangerment. The FDNY also issued a criminal summons for charging and storing more than five batteries. The store housed about 15 batteries inside of the building. 

This story first appeared on Brooklyn Paper’s sister site amNewYork.

Correction 4/16/24, 4:08 p.m.: This headline of this story previously said the location of the bike shop was Downtown Brooklyn, not Flatbush. We regret the error.