A man was charged with arson in a fire he's accused of setting in a New York City spa this summer, threatening the life of an employee trapped inside, according to federal prosecutors.
Mario Lucas, a 46-year-old from Guatemala, entered a Manhattan spa on June 19, 2022 and began speaking with an employee, according to an Oct. 7 release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.
About 10 minutes later, when the employee had gone into a back room, the man removed a plastic container of fluid from his backpack, poured it throughout the lobby and ignited it with a lighter, stated the release.
With the fire spreading across the spa's lobby - and the employee still in the back - Lucas
attempted to flee, but the front door would not open, according to the release.
A crowd had formed outside the spa, and an onlooker used a stool to force open the door, allowing the man to escape. About a minute later, the employee exited as well.
Lucas, appearing to suffer from severe burns, fled the scene, but was caught by police a few blocks away and placed in an ambulance, according to the release.
The arson "was not just a crime against a single victim in one business, but a violent assault that endangered an entire community and all the first responders who rushed in to help," stated NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell in the release.
Lucas was charged by complaint and arrested on Aug. 8 and his one-count indictment was unsealed on Thursday, Oct. 6. He has been charged with arson resulting in injury to another person, which has a minimum sentence of seven years and up to 40 years in prison, according to officials.
An attorney for Lucas could not be contacted by McClatchy News.
Arrests for arson screened for prosecution in Manhattan have increased in recent years, according to data from the district attorney's office.
Separately, New York City has greatly reduced the number of criminal cases it pursues related to major fire safety violations, "prompting worries about the rigor of its fire prevention strategy," according to the New York Times.
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