State Watch

Man arrested in connection with arson at LGBT nightclub in NYC

A police line set up by the U.S. Capitol Police is seen as climate protesters stage a sit-in outside the U.S. Capitol on Friday, October 15, 2021.
Greg Nash

Local and federal authorities on Thursday announced that charges have been filed against a suspect in the April 3 arson of an LGBT club in New York City.

John Lhota, 24, of Brooklyn, was arrested on April 6. He faces a maximum of 40 years in prison for allegedly setting fire to the Brooklyn nightclub and hospitalizing two people, according to the Justice Department.

U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said “Lhota deliberately set fire to a bar and nightclub patronized by members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“This Office strongly condemns such acts of violence, and will vigorously prosecute this case,” Peace said in a statement. “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.”

Authorities say Lhota could be seen on security video purchasing a red canister at a local gas station and filling it up with gasoline at a pump. He then entered the Rash Bar around 9:20 p.m. and began pouring the gasoline on the floor of the club, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York.

Security 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,” the criminal complaint says.

Lhota then could be seen in the footage tossing a cigarette onto the fuel line and walking away, but failed to spark a fire. He then returned with a lighter and ignited it, according to the complaint. He was captured on security camera footage fleeing the scene, authorities say.

The fire took about an hour to extinguish, Peace said, and severely damaged the building. The blaze also injured two employees, hospitalizing them, according to the Justice Department.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D), who condemned the arson earlier this month, tweeted on Thursday afternoon confirming the arrest and saying that “we made a promise to our LGBTQ+ community and all communities to keep our city safe.”

“We won’t rest in making that a reality,” he wrote.

The Rash Bar’s Instagram says it is still closed temporarily. The club organized a GoFundMe fundraiser and has raised more than $108,000 as of Thursday out of an intended goal of $200,000.

On Instagram, the club shared news of the arrest of Lhota and said they were “sleeping a little easier tonight.”

Tags arson Brooklyn Eric Adams New York New York City

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