Authorities have arrested a man in connection with an arson attack on a New York City bar and nightclub popular with the LGBTQ+ community.
On Thursday, federal and local authorities announced that John Lhota, a 24-year-old man from Brooklyn, has been charged in the arson attack, which occurred earlier this month at Rash, a bar and nightclub in Bushwick. If convicted, Lhota faces a minimum sentence of seven years in prison, and a possible maximum sentence of 40 years.
“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 blazed for approximately one hour,” said Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement released Thursday.
“This Office strongly condemns such acts of violence, and will vigorously prosecute this case,” she added. “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.”
According to the statement, which was released by the Eastern District Attorney’s Office, Lhota was captured on security footage on April 3 purchasing a canister of gasoline at a service station before proceeding to Rash. At the club, he was caught on video surveillance dumping the contents of the canister onto the bar’s floor. He initially attempted to ignite the gasoline by tossing a lit cigarette, but when that failed he used a lighter to set the fire.
Two bar employees were hospitalized with injuries from the blaze.
Lhota had been arrested on April 6, three days after the attack. A criminal complaint filed by the Eastern District of New York states that Lhota had subsequently been tracked on security footage returning to his apartment following the attack.
He was later identified as the attacker by one of the alleged victims.
Rash, which opened in Bushwick in October, has raised over $100K on GoFundMe to aid with expenses and recovery.