Californians know fires can spark easily due to drought conditions, but no one expects a fire in the aisles of their local Home Depot.
The April fire at a San Jose Home Depot destroyed the 11,000-square-foot store and displaced 180 employees. More than $17 million in inventory was lost. Fortunately, no one was injured. The fire’s heat signature was so enormous it registered from space, according to the National Weather Service’s San Francisco office.
About 10 days after the fire, police arrested a 27-year-old man. He was charged with aggravated arson, a serious felony.
5-Alarm Fire Allegedly Purposely Started
The 5-alarm fire took 12 hours to suppress what firefighters called an “aggressive” fire.
The “alarm” refers to the number of resources needed to suppress the fire, including firefighters, fire trucks, and fire apparatus. Alarm numbers 1 through 5 are used by the San Jose CA fire department based on the fire danger, size, and severity. Typically, every firefighting alarm assignment starting at 1 alarm has two to four fire engines, one to two ladder trucks, one rescue or air unit, and one battalion chief.
In addition to the destruction at the home improvement store, police and firefighters rushed dozens of animals into cars and trucks from the pet hospital next door.
Examination by ATF Investigators
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) arrived to assist the San Jose Fire Department. The ATF routinely offers its expertise with large-scale fires and explosions.
The collective work of local and federal investigators led to the determination that the fire had been intentionally set. Dyllin Jaycruz Gogue was arrested and charged with multiple felonies.
According to officials, Gogue set the fire during business hours to create a diversion so he could shoplift tools.
Arson and Other Charges
Gogue is facing charges related to both the fire and goods he allegedly stole. Prosecutors say stole a variety of items dating back to October 2021. He took 45 pairs of jeans from Macy’s, a keyboard and guitar from Guitar Center, and 14 pairs of sunglasses from Sunglass Hut.
Gogue has been charged with the following:
- 1 Count of Aggravated Arson (Penal Code Section 451.5(a))
- 1 Count of Arson of an Inhibited Structure or Inhibited Property (Penal Code Section 451(b))
- 1 Count of Arson of a Structure or Forest Land (Penal Code Section 451(c))
- 7 Counts of Grand Theft of Personal Property of Value over $950 (Penal Code 487(a))
- 3 Counts of Petty Theft of Personal Property (Penal Code Section 488)
The petty theft charges are misdemeanors while all the others are felonies.
Types of Arson Charges
Gogue was charged as such because investigators say he met two criteria:
- Starting the fire with the intent to cause damage to property under circumstances likely to produce injury to one or more persons
- Causing property damage and other losses valued over $8.3 million
In general, aggravated arson can also be charged if someone has a previous arson conviction within the past 10 years of the current charge.
For the aggravated charge alone, Gogue could be sentenced to life in state prison. The arson of inhibited structure and arson of a structure carries penalties of up to 8 years and 6 years in prison, respectively. Grand theft can send someone to prison for up to 3 years. Petty theft, the misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail. Fines are also possible with all the counts.
The arson charges identified in the Gogue case aren’t the only ones in California statute. Others include the following:
- Arson Causing Great Bodily Injury (punishable by up to 9 years in prison)
- Arson of Property (punishable by up to 3 years in prison)
- Attempted Arson (punishable by up to 3 years in prison)
Most arson charges are felonies (attempted arson is a misdemeanor).
Arson charges should be met with a swift and smart legal strategy. Our attorneys at Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC fiercely defend our clients in the Orange County area. With decades of criminal experience, including as prosecutors, we know the most fruitful legal maneuvers to help protect our client’s reputation and future.
For representation against arson charges or another crime, contact us at (949) 251-0330. We are available 24/7 to take your call.