(AP) A man charged with setting a fire that gutted a Northern California Home Depot, prompted hundreds to flee and filled the sky with smoke was trying to cover up a theft of tools, authorities said Tuesday.
Dyllin Jaycruz Gogue, 27, of San Jose, was arrested last Friday. He appeared in court Tuesday and was given a public defender and a June 1 court date to enter a plea. He was being held without bail.
Gogue is accused of setting a fire that began in the lumber section of the Home Depot in South San Jose on April 9. He was trying to create a distraction while making off with a cart full of tools but drove off without taking them, prosecutors said.
The five-alarm fire destroyed the store, causing an estimated $17 million in damage to the store contents. The fire, which took about 100 firefighters six hours to control, sent up a huge black plume of smoke. People in nearby homes and businesses were told to stay inside out of concerns that the smoke might contain toxic chemicals.
The fire burned near hundreds of homes and was so hot that it was seen by satellites, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said at a news conference.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said the fire erupted on a weekend when the store was full of shoppers and he was thankful that his office “is not prosecuting a multiple murder case today.”
“Miraculously no one was hurt,” he said. “But it came close — far, far too close — to causing many injuries and deaths.”
Gogue allegedly stole items from a Bass Pro Shop before the fire, and he went on to steal from a Macy’s store afterward, authorities said.
In addition to aggravated arson, he also is charged with grand theft and petty theft involving shoplifting at six South San Jose stores between last October and April 2.
The new theft charges span from October 2021 to April 2, involving $17,000 worth of items from six South San Jose retailers. He could face a potential life sentence if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said.