At a press conference on May 4, 2021, Captain Antonio Negrete, Public Information Officer for the San Gabriel Fire Department, stated that after an eight-month investigation, with twelve agencies working together which comprise The Verdugo Fire Investigation Task (VFIRF), the fire at the historic Mission San Gabriel on July 11, 2020, “was deemed an arson fire.”
By Cheryl Cabot
“While firefighting operations were still in progress, an investigation into the origin and cause of the fire was launched,” San Gabriel Fire Chief Steven Wallace said. “From the first investigators on scene the inquiry was carried out by the Verdugo Fire Investigation Task Force.”
“This morning a case was filed against John David Corey Jr., age 57. He will be arraigned in Los Angeles Criminal Court on Tuesday, May 18 with the following charges; two felony counts arson of an inhabited structure, one felony count of arson during a state of emergency, one felony count of possession of a flammable liquid, and one felony count of first degree residential burglary,” stated Captain Jason Sutliff of the San Marino Fire Department
Captain Sutliff led the VFIRF investigation. He helped fight the fire for well over two hours before transitioning into the investigation of the fire, “which means in the arson world, going back to the space where the fire had burned and digging through the char and debris to determine the origin and the cause of where the fire started.”
“Joining me in the search were fellow task force members from San Gabriel, Glendale, Monterey Park, Monrovia and the ATF. Arson investigators from the Los Angeles City Fire Department who were assigned as ATF Passport Officers, were called in along with their arson canine to work with us to determine the origin and cause of the fire. The investigation that took place over the next few months was thorough and comprehensive.
“If convicted, Mr. Corey will face up to 14 years in state prison,” Sutliff continued. Mr. Corey is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for an unrelated arson that took place in San Gabriel just a few days after the Mission fire. It was in the investigation of that fire that Mr. Corey became a person of interest in the Mission fire.”
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