SAN JOSE, Calif. - Detectives investigating an arson fire that wiped out a San Jose Home Depot on Thursday urged more witnesses to come forward.
Gogue, 27, was charged with three counts of arson, seven counts of grand theft, and three counts of petty theft in connection with the inferno.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Gogue intentionally set the fire in an aisle at Home Depot while trying to take a cart load of tools worth thousands of dollars from the hardware store on Blossom Hill Road.
The fire was so massive, smoke was visible from space and caused $17 million in inventory loss.
"I’m thankful that my office is not prosecuting a multiple murder case," he said. "The evidence shows that the suspect who had earlier that day stolen items from a nearby Bass Pro Shop lit the fire at the Home Depot and tried to leave the store with a cart containing stolen tools. He was stopped by a Home Depot employee and fled in another person’s car."
Prosecutors said Gogue continued his theft spree at a Macy’s in the East Bay.
911 calls came pouring in as employees and customers were racing to get out of the 98,000 square-feet store that has since been deemed a total loss.
"When someone commits a terrible act of this magnitude that endangers the lives of many, good people spring into action to save live," San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said. "That’s what our San Jose Police Department and other first responders did that day."
Police describe Gogue as a chronic thief who stole thousands of dollars in merchandise from stores, sometimes revisiting the same stores more than once.
Charging documents say he stole 45 pairs of Levi’s jeans from Kohl’s, a keyboard and guitar from Guitar Center, and 14 pairs of sunglasses from a Sunglass Hut in recent weeks.
Investigators said pictures and surveillance video of the thefts helped connect Gogue to the fire set at Home Depot. A fire witness was able to identify him as the suspect.
"Arson is a dangerous, violent crime," ATF Special Agent in Charge Patrick Gorman said. "This unnecessary and tragic fire could have resulted in injury or loss of life."