John Lhota charged with arson at LGBTQ Rash nightclub

Deliberate arson

The New York Police Department released footage of the arson at the Rash, an LGBTQ nightclub in Brooklyn. Prosecutors charged John Lhota with allegedly setting the fire.

A 24-year-old Brooklyn man was arrested in connection with a “brazen arson attack” that left two people injured and a popular LGBTQ nightclub in Bushwick set ablaze, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

John Lhota is expected to be presented to the US judge on Thursday Roanne L Mannwho recently chaired the first court appearance of the suspected Brooklyn subway bomber.

Lhota was charged with a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.

“As alleged, Lhota deliberately set fire to a bar and nightclub frequented by members of the LGBTQ+ community, seriously injuring two of his employees and endangering everyone present, including the building’s tenants and first responders responding to the incident Fires fought for about an hour,” US Attorney Breon Peace wrote in a statement. “This office strongly condemns such acts of violence and will vigorously pursue this case. The victims and all LGBTQ+ New Yorkers should be able to enjoy their nights in peace and without fear of such a dangerous attack.”

Charged under a Federal law on arsonLhota faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted because the alleged crime resulted in two injuries in the building.

The law, 18 US Code § 844(i), reads:

(i) Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, by fire or explosives, or attempts to damage or destroy any building, vehicle or other property or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce or in activities affecting interstate or foreign commerce destroying shall be punishable by imprisonment for not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years, a fine under that title, or both; and if any person is injured, including a public safety officer, performing duties as a direct or consequential result of conduct prohibited by this subsection, he shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than 7 years and not more than 40 years and a fine assigned this title. or both

After the April 3 attack, the New York City Police Department released surveillance footage showing the suspect at the facility.

“Between approximately 9:21 p.m. and 9:24 p.m. surveillance footage from surveillance cameras at the rash bar and nightclub captures Lhota systematically pouring gasoline on the floor of rash,” his complaint said. “Specifically. The footage shows him spilling the gasoline in a passageway and an adjacent customer lounge area while a bartender and another person go about their business nearby, unaware of the nature of Lhota’s actions or the ensuing aftermath. The Footage shows Lhota throwing a lit cigarette at the gas and walking away.”

Prosecutors say it took the New York City Fire Department about an hour to extinguish and “severely damage” the building.

Indiscriminate destruction of the nightclub

Prosecutors say the arson at Brooklyn’s Rash nightclub “severely damaged” the building.

Surveillance footage showed Lhota taking a long “detour” to his home after the attack, authorities say.

“This was a brazen act of arson that seriously injured two people, put the lives of local residents and dozens of firefighters in grave danger, and instilled fear in an entire community,” the acting fire commissioner said Laura Kavanagh said in a statement.

Less than three days after the attack, Lhota was arrested on April 6 on unrelated charges of assaulting a woman.

Authorities say the alleged attack victim recognized him in the footage.

“Just two days later, on the morning of April 8, 2022, the alleged victim of Lhota’s attack – a person whose identity I know who has lived in close proximity to Lhota for about four months and observed him daily – himself quoted above Viewed security camera footage and identified the arsonist as Lhota.”

Lhota was arrested on Thursday. Court documents are silent on an alleged motive shared by the nightclub’s co-owner Washington Post had a “reasonable chance” of being a hate crime. No further information was released at the time of going to press.

Read the complaint below:

(Photo via NYPD)

Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected] John Lhota charged with arson at LGBTQ Rash nightclub

James Brien

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