Neighbors support man accused of setting apartment building on fire

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - He's accused of setting an apartment building on fire, displacing six families. But when Craig Morales showed up in court Thursday, many of those families showed up too.

During his arraignment, Craig Morales hid in the hallway. Had he looked in the courtroom, he might have been surprised.

He had a huge contingent of supporters, many of them the neighbors whose apartments he's accused of burning down.

"I'm here to support my friend," says Michael Montoya, the on-site manager of the apartment complex on 5th street.

He says Morales has a history of mental illness and substance abuse, and that Saturday, he was in the middle of a violent episode.

Neighbors called San Jose Police who came with a tactical unit, tried to subdue him, and then left without taking Morales into custody.

A short time later, neighbors saw the fire.

"When we had called the police earlier, that's what we were trying to do was get him some help, make sure he was going to be safe and we were going to be safe," says neighbor Shantel Montoya.

Now six families have been displaced, including Nikki Costello and her three children. She had been homeless until six months ago. Now she's essentially homeless again.

"Too many emotions. I'm overwhelmed, sad, angry - not at... just the situation," Costello says.

San Jose Police say they're conducting an internal investigation into what happened that night.

Neighbors say Morales needed psychiatric help. Now they're afraid he won't get it.

"Instead he's looking at major time. These people are out of homes. It just got way out of control," says Shantel Montoya.

He's facing charges for arson, and for assaulting a police officer, possibly up to nine years in prison. The DA's office says the resident's support doesn't go unnoticed.

"I've met with them and talked to them about their concerns and it's absolutely something that we'll consider going forward in how to evaluate and resolve this case," says Deputy Dist. Attorney Michael Gadeberg.

Morales's family was in court too, his father and brother overwhelmed by the outpouring.

"It does show me the support, they are here for my brother. And I hope it helps you Craig," says brother, Adam Morales.

"Craig if you're watching this, dude we love you and we want you to get the help that you need, man," says Michael Montoya.

The Red Cross is helping the displaced families, many of whom are staying in motels.

Bail for Morales, was set at $200,000.