A 27-year-old man from San Jose is now behind bars, accused of setting fire to a Home Depot two Saturdays ago as he stole several items. As SFist reported, that April 9 five-alarm blaze was so hot, it could be seen from space.
The man the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office now says is responsible is Dyllin Jaycruz Gogue. DA Jeff Rosen says he’s charged with aggravated arson, seven counts of grand theft, and three counts of petty theft.
Aggravated arson is a very specific charge that requires a certain legal standard to meet. Firstly, for that charge, prosecutors have to prove a person intentionally set fire to a property. The damage caused has to exceed $8.3 million, which it does in this case. Further, for a person to be convicted, prosecutors have to demonstrate it was likely that a person could have been seriously injured or killed.
“This fire was it was set around 5:15, 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday with the store full of employees and shoppers,” said Rosen. “This home depot is very close to residences and schools. This was an incredibly reckless and dangerous act. I felt the appropriate way to hold somebody accountable for this crime was the most serious charge.”
That charge alone carries a term of 10 years to life. With the other charges added on, that increases to 14 years to life. However, the District Attorney says Gogue would be eligible for parole in six years.
Prosecutors aren’t sure how much was stolen from the Home Depot after the fire started, but said Gogue has been charged with other thefts before where the total value of what was taken was in the tens of thousands. He's also accused of stealing from a nearby Bass Pro Shop earlier that day, before the alleged arson at Home Depot.
DA Rosen says Gogue loaded up a cart with stolen goods and tried to escape while the fire burned, but was stopped by a Home Depot employee and escaped in another person's car.
"Later, as the Home Depot was burning, he continued a theft spree that extended to a Macy's in the East Bay," said Rosen. Investigators served a warrant to arrest Gogue on Friday, April 15th.
The San Jose Fire Department stayed on scene monitoring hot spots from the fire for two days after it burned down the Home Depot.
"Debris trapped under the fallen roof is the source of some small flare ups," the Department explained on April 11th.
The District Attorney says his office values the total loss of goods at around $17 million. That’s on top of the lost building and damage to other nearby buildings, which would add up to tens of millions more in damages.
“While I’m grateful no one was killed and what you’re seeing here is really an A-Team of first responders who handled this situation, I also recognize that people that live in this area of San Jose the smoke, the disruption, to be reminded of this fire every time you go to that shopping mall or drive by it, is traumatic,” said Rosen. “And for the workers in that store, I don’t know if they’ve lost their job or not, but that’s one thing that’s so dangerous about setting a fire and why we handle it so vigorously and forcefully in law enforcement is because the consequences of starting a fire can be so cataclysmic.”
San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien Jr. says the Fire Department is still working to establish what fire protection systems, if any, were working and available in the building.
Special Agent Patrick T. Gorman, who oversees the San Francisco field division of the federal government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, says he has a 14-person team assigned to this case. That includes forensic mapping specialists and highly-experienced fire experts who are now working with the San Jose Fire Department to investigate the fire.
Gorman says the investigators confirmed the fire was intentionally started, and that the arson began while employees and customers were still inside the building.
Gogue has an arraignment hearing at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The District Attorney's Office says the investigation is ongoing.
Photo: San Jose Fire Dept/Twitter