New York Daily News
A Brooklyn man who set an LGBTQ nightclub on fire in Brooklyn using a lighter and a can of gasoline was arrested thanks to the help of a person who he assaulted two days after the arson, prosecutors said Thursday.
John Lhota, 24, lives just half a mile from Rash, the queer-friendly Bushwick nightclub he’s accused of setting ablaze on April 3, according to the feds.
Lhota was caught on surveillance video filling up a red canister at a gas station about 15 minutes before the attack, prosecutors said.
He allegedly went straight from the gas station to Rash, where FDNY officials say he spent minutes “systematically” pouring gasoline on the floor.
“The footage shows him splashing the gasoline around a passageway and an adjacent customer lounge area while a bartender and another person go about their business nearby, appearing unaware of the nature of Lhota’s actions,” wrote Craig Gundersen, an FDNY Fire Marshal in a complaint filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Lhota unsuccessfully tried to set the place on fire by tossing a lit cigarette onto the gasoline, prosecutors said. So Lhota took a lighter to the gas, causing an explosion caught on surveillance cameras.
The fire singed two workers at the club, sending them to the hospital, and also displaced tenants living above at 941 Willoughby Ave.
Lhota fled the scene, but was spotted by a witness, prosecutors said.
Two days later, Lhota was arrested on separate charges in Brooklyn for allegedly assaulting a neighbor, prosecutors said.
The victim — who had lived close to Lhota for four months — was shown security camera footage from Rash and identified Lhota as the firebug.
Lhota was hit with a federal arson charge and faces up to 40 years in prison.
“Sleeping a little easier tonight,” the official Rash nightclub Instagram posted Thursday, along with the announcement of the arrest.
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