SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In a Tuesday press conference, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen identified the suspect arrested for allegedly starting a massive 5-alarm fire at a San Jose Home Depot on April 9. The blaze destroyed the building and caused more than $17-million in damages and lost goods.
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DA Rosen said using a warrant, SJPD arrested Dyllin Jaycruz Gogue, 27, of San Jose on Friday, April 15.
During his first court appearance on Tuesday, prosecutors pointed to theft as the real motive behind the blaze that burned down the Blossom Hill Road Home Depot.
"The evidence shows that the suspect- who had earlier that day stolen items from a nearby Bass Pro Shop- lit the fire in the Home Depot and tried to leave the store with a cart containing stolen tools," DA Rosen told reporters.
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Rosen said Gogue allegedly started a fire in an aisle, attempted to leave with a cartful of tools, and left in a vehicle.
As the crowded, 11-thousand-square-foot building burned, Rosen said Gogue then continued his attempted theft spree at an East Bay Macy's.
"Miraculously, no one was hurt in this five-alarm fire that was so hot and so large...far, far too close to causing many injuries and deaths," he said, causing an estimated $17 million in inventory loss.
"Within days, investigators with San Jose Police Department and ATF had a suspect using a warrant. San Jose PD arrested Gogue on Friday, April 15, less than two weeks after his horribly reckless and criminal behavior, left Home Depot a burned out shell."
Gogue is charged with aggravated arson, seven counts of grand theft, and three counts of petty larceny, according to Rosen. These are charges which could land Gogue in prison for 14 years to life.
"It certainly is an arson in the sense that he apparently intentionally started a fire," legal analyst and former prosecutor Steven Clark told ABC7 News. "The question remains whether it's aggravated arson- that he intended to burn down the Home Depot, or put lots of people in jeopardy. Or was he just intending to distract security?"
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Clark weighed in on the man's alleged behavior. Court documents show that between October 2021 to April 2022, Gogue was suspected of being involved in a number of thefts. Documents detailed he had stolen merchandise from various businesses with values ranging from $270 to more than $5,000.
"It appears that he's someone that has committed a number of thefts and has been doing it for a long time, but that doesn't necessarily make him an arsonist," Clark said. "And I think people are going to ask, why did this fire get started in this small way - to distract security apparently - but then turn into what we saw happen so quickly."
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"It's difficult, without all of the information yet available- how exactly this this fire was precisely lit and then how quickly it spread. And so, it is possible that there's enough combustibles in an area to overcome what the ratings of the fire protection systems are," San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien, Jr. told reporters.
He went on to say that it is possible to have a fire like this, even in a protected structure.
"We are still working to establish exactly what the status of the fire protection systems were in the building," the chief said.
Witnesses who spoke with ABC7 News claimed there was no immediate fire alarm and no sign of active sprinklers. The fire department said that is all under investigation.
"We were watching the ceiling come down in flames before any alarm came on," said Jeff Baham, who was inside during the fire. "It wasn't until maybe three minutes after we left, this giant plume of smoke came rushing out to the front and then we all knew it is time to leave."
"In this case, if in fact true, not having any suppression within the sprinkler systems... It's like, what happened? Was it overwhelmed? Was it not enough? Or was it shut off? I think those are the things that the fire department- now with ATF help- are gonna come out and present at some point," Park Fire District Chief Harold Schapelhouman shared.
He added, "You can overwhelm sprinkler systems- and we've seen that before in large warehouse facilities- meaning that the fire gets so big, the ability of the sprinkler system is not there to be able to put it out. So that's a design issue, that's a combustible load issue, that's a code issue. And those are all real factors."
When that time comes, he said what is ultimately identified could lead to widespread improvements.
"It's not as if that's the only Home Depot in the country, right?" he added. "Nobody's looking to duplicate this."
Gogue appeared in court Tuesday afternoon and was assigned a public defender. His next court date is June 1 at 1:30 p.m.
ABC7 News reached out to Home Depot after Tuesday's development. The company issued a statement which read, "We owe a great deal of thanks to the first responders, San Jose fire, police and partner organizations for their fast response and investigation that led to this arrest. Above all, we're thankful no one was harmed, and that all of our associates and customers are safe and accounted for. Thank you to our associates for the fast action and courage they showed to quickly evacuate the building, which ensured no one was harmed."