From the Justice Department:
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging John Lhota with the April 3, 2022 arson of Rash, a bar and nightclub in Bushwick frequented by members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Lhota was arrested yesterday and will make his initial appearance this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; John B. DeVito, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); and Laura Kavanagh, Acting Commissioner, New York City Fire Department (FDNY), announced the arrest and charge.
“As alleged, Lhota deliberately set fire to a bar and nightclub patronized 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,” stated United States Attorney Peace.
“This Office strongly condemns such acts of violence, and will vigorously prosecute this case. 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.”
As set forth in the complaint, on the evening of April 3, 2022, Lhota was captured on security video purchasing a red gas canister at a service station and filling it with gasoline.
Lhota then proceeded to Rash, located on the ground floor of a multi-story building at 941 Willoughby Avenue, where he allegedly poured gasoline over the floor of the bar. The video showed Lhota tossing a lit cigarette on the floor, but the gasoline did not ignite.
Lhota then used a cigarette lighter to ignite the gasoline, causing an explosion and a fire. The floors above Rash contain residential apartments. Firefighters responded to the location and extinguished the blaze.
Two employees of Rash were injured and required hospitalization. The building sustained heavy damage due to the fire. Security video captured Lhota fleeing the burning nightclub.
The charge in the complaint is an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Lhota faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment, and a maximum of 40 years’ imprisonment.