He met his girlfriend, Marilu Torres, at a party in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in 2013. He drank too much and left his sweater and an ID card. She returned them. They moved in together, and the next year, Stephanie was born.
They called her “gatito,” kitten in Spanish, because she made meowing sounds when she was young. She had a big heart for all creatures, even alligators and tarantulas. “She would like something odd and make it her own,” said Jefferson Jimenez, 19, Ms. Torres’s son.
Mr. Muñoz said he bought the e-scooter so Mr. Jimenez could ride it. He also used it to make extra money delivering Grubhub orders.
But then the trouble started. Mr. Muñoz was riding it one day when the battery died. He had to push the scooter home. “I’m going to throw it in the garbage,” he said he told himself. When he plugged in the battery, it would not charge.
His co-worker at the bodega brought in another charger, and then another, until one finally worked. That night, Mr. Muñoz brought the charger and battery to his apartment and went to sleep. Hours later, he woke up to smoke “like the darkest thing you have ever seen.”
With severe burns on his face, arms and hands, Mr. Muñoz spent two months in the hospital. He was there when he found out that the cause of all the misery and devastation had been the battery.
Ms. Torres said the e-scooter she never wanted has “broken part of me.”
Photographed for The New York Times, with words by Winnie Hu.How E-Bike Battery Fires Became a Deadly Crisis in New York City
City leaders are racing to regulate battery-powered mobility devices, which have been the source of over 100 fires so far this year.