A man, who is suspected of having started a fire at Brooklyn nightclub Rash earlier this month, has been taken into custody.
The 24-year-old man, identified as John Lhota, was taken into custody by New York police late last week, subsequently appearing in court in connection with the arson attack. The charges he may face if they are brought could carry a prison sentence of between seven and 40 years.
The arson attack at the Bushwick nightclub took place on Sunday, 3rd April, shortly before an event at the club was due to start that night. Witnesses said they saw a man wearing a dark hoodie and backpack enter the bar and begin to pour gasoline on the floor. The venue had only been open for five months before the attack happened.
The man, believed to be Lhota, was questioned about what he was doing at the time, but told people that the liquid he was pouring was water. When questioned further by one of the venue's security staff, the man attempted to light the gasoline on the floor with a lit cigarette. When this failed to start a fire, he instead used a cigarette lighter, which caused a fire to break out.
Two people, a bartender and a DJ who was playing at the time, had to run through flames in order to get out of the building and escape the fire. Both sustained minor injuries while trying to escape, while the club was significantly damaged and will be closed for the foreseeable future.
It has now been revealed that Lhota was captured on security cameras purchasing a gas canister and filling it with gasoline before the arson attack happened.
Announcing Lhota's arrest, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said: "As alleged, Lhota deliberately set fire to a bar and nightclub patronised by members of the LGBTQ+ community, seriously injuring two of its employees, and endangering all present including the tenants of the building as well as the first responders who battled the blaze for approximately one hour."
Peace added that the local authorities will seek to prosecute the case, adding that "the victims, and all LGBTQ+ New Yorkers, should be able to enjoy their nights out in peace and without fear of such a dangerous attack".
Rash has launched a GoFundMe campaign following the fire to raise money to repair damage within the venue, and support its staff while it remains closed.