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Navy Seal Dropout Identified as Suspect in USS Bonhomme Richard Blaze

Navy Seal Dropout Identified as Suspect in USS Bonhomme Richard Blaze

Ryan Sawyer Mays faces possible charges of aggravated arson and willful hazarding of a vessel, if the Navy seeks a court martial.

Last July, a 1,100-degree fire blazed aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard.

In a recent post about my concerns about American military readiness and priorities, I noted that the ship had been decommissioned in April, and the investigation was winding down.

The Navy has identified the sailor charged in connection with the fire that burned aboard the amphibious assault ship for four days.

A federal search warrant affidavit unsealed this week has identified the sailor suspected of starting the 2020 fire aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard as Seaman Apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays, a SEAL training washout who some shipmates said “hates” the Navy.

The affidavit by Naval Criminal Investigative Service Agent Maya Kamat was filed Sept. 3 to compel Google to grant access to Mays’ Gmail account.

The Navy on July 29 announced arson and hazarding a vessel charges against a sailor for starting the multiday fire that began on July 12, 2020, as the ship was undergoing maintenance in San Diego.

While the Navy declined to identify the sailor ahead of an Article 32 hearing that will help determine whether the case goes to trial, a motion filed Tuesday by government prosecutors asking to unseal the affidavit involving Mays states that “a sailor was arrested and charged” in connection to the investigation and that the affidavit should be made public so that it can be disclosed to that sailor’s defense team.

Investigators went to Mays after interviewing the 177 service members assigned to the Bonhomme Richard. Several of the crew members claimed they either see Mays around the fire scene before it was set, heard him say he was guilty while talking to himself, or heard him express extreme disdain for the Navy.

The warrant also says a polygraph revealed Mays was lying about certain relevant questions pertaining to the events of July 12, 2020, the day the fire was set. And further red flags were raised when Mays allegedly also lied to investigators about his personal life, claiming he had gotten another sailor pregnant. When she was questioned, the sailor denied ever being pregnant and said Mays was ‘volatile and bipolar.’

The affidavit states that Mays joined the Navy in 2019 ‘with the intent on becoming trained in the Advanced Electronics Computer Fields,’ but ‘changed his career goals to becoming a Navy SEAL.’ Five days into his training, he dropped out and was assigned as an ‘undesignated Seaman’ abroad the Bonhomme Richard.

The affidavit reads, ‘According to Navy leadership, the morale and behavior of sailors who had aspired to become a SEAL, and then find themselves serving in a more traditional role on a Navy ship, are frequently very challenging.’

Reports also say that Mays “maintained his innocence” when questioned.

Mays “maintained his innocence as to being the cause of the fire throughout the entire interview,” the affidavit reads. “At one point, after being told that he had been identified as having descended the ramp to the Lower V, [what was later determined to be the origin point of the fire] before the fire started, Mays stated that he was being set up.”

When interviewed by NCIS agents, Mays “repeatedly denied having started the fire on the BHR or having been in the Lower V on the day of the fire,” according to the affidavit.

More information is also coming out about the fire itself. Investigations had shown the ship’s firefighting equipment had been intentionally damaged before the blaze was ignited. Mays is facing serious charges and a potential court-martial.

Mays, whose identity has not previously been revealed, now faces charges of arson within a special maritime and territorial jurisdiction, use of fire to damage federal property, and making a false statement, the warrant states. If the Navy instead proceeds with a court martial, Mays will be charged with aggravated arson and willful hazarding of a vessel, said a Navy spokesman. Mays does not have a lawyer listed in court records, and could not be reached for comment.


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We will see if this is true. But this is the “woker-than-thou” US military whose leadership sees “white nationalists” lurking under every bed. I have my doubts.

Did they finally quit referring to the ‘DNA evidence’ that supposedly came out near the beginning of this? Because I’m having trouble reconciling ‘fire burned for four days’ and any kind of usable DNA recovered. Between that and the ‘failed’ lie detector test, it’s starting to look like the Navy found their goat.

Forgive the skepticism. Innocent until proven guilty, after all.

    Olinser in reply to georgfelis. | August 5, 2021 at 6:42 pm

    Polygraphs are complete junk science and a JOKE to anybody that actually investigates crimes for a living. There is a REASON that they are not admissible in any criminal court in the US, because everything about them is open to ‘interpretation’.

    The fact that this one of the key things that they’re choosing to publicize about this only furthers my belief that this is a show trial to find the ‘reason’ for the fire.

    It couldn’t possibly be the catastrophic leadership failures at every conceivable level. No, it’s because this one guy just decided to start a fire!

      The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Olinser. | August 5, 2021 at 6:50 pm

      “It couldn’t possibly be the catastrophic leadership failures at every conceivable level. No, it’s because this one guy just decided to start a fire!”

      No. It was lazy shipyard workers not practicing basic marine safety procedures regarding flammable materials.

        Griz, when you start adding up the multiple possible causes for a catastrophic fire that raged for four days in a Navy shipyard, then it becomes obvious there were multiple points of failure. When there are multiple points of failure there’s only one direction to point the finger.


      Char Char Binks in reply to Olinser. | August 7, 2021 at 8:44 pm

      The advantage of a polygraph test is that it’s easy to coerce a 20-year-old into taking, and failing, one.

These sorts of young men become bitter and angry. The Service fosters this. No way the pipeline to SF or Seal should be open to anyone who hasn’t completed individual training and spent two years in assignments earning the privilege to attend selection course.

Instead the majority of these kids wash out and adopt an Uncle Rico attitude; ‘if only this or only that had happened I would be a Seal or SF’. Totally avoidable but now the DoD lost a vessel instead of the kid simply being a pain in the ass for his JR/SR Enlisted leaders and the Jr officers in his chain of Command. Maybe this will spur change.

    gonzotx in reply to CommoChief. | August 5, 2021 at 6:03 pm

    Yeah, no white soy boys…
    Actually no white boys at all

    Change you can believe in

    Arminius in reply to CommoChief. | August 6, 2021 at 11:50 pm

    This makes sense for Army and Marine special forces. The USMC emphasizes that MARSOC Marines are Marines first. And of course every Marine is a rifleman. The Army used to demand that Ranger/Green Beret candidates first qualify and serve as infantrymen (whether was open to other MOSs I can’t speak to with authority; just as a general rule) before attempting to join SF. I believe I read at some point after I retired that the Army was permitting recruits to go directly into the SF pipeline, but I’m not the expert on the Army.

    This makes sense because when things fall to s*** the Marine and Army types can revert to basic infantry life forms. The SEALs can’t. They hate to admit it, but they are Sailors. And the Navy isn’t an infantry force. This is a known weakness in Navy SPECWAR. They can’t revert to basic infantry life forms because to revert, you had to be one at some point in your life.

    I’m not sure what you mean by SF in reference to the Navy, CommoChief. The terms I’m familiar with are SPECWAR (Special Warfare) for combat swimmers. SEAL slash UDT and also Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen.

    Then there’s Special Operations. Divers. EOD, Salvage, and the Seabee UCTs; Underwater Construction Teams; the polar opposite of the old Underwater Demolition Teams. The Navy was using the term Special Operations decades before it acquired the Ninja warrior, “I can kill you with my thumbs” reputation. When the Navy first started hard hat diving, that in and of itself was a special operation. As in, out of the norm.

    The drop-out rate for BUD/S is something like 75%. The focus on the fact that this guy dropped out after 5 days is to me evidence that the MFM couldn’t find their collective asses with both hands. Not one of them could have gotten a shot at becoming a SEAL, let alone lasted 5 days. That places Ryan Sawyer Mays in, what, the top o.25% of the general population in terms of physical fitness and mental toughness?

    He gets the benefit of the doubt from me. I’m old enough to remember when the Navy tried to blame the Iowa turret explosion on a gay love triangle gone wrong, and a heartsick gay lover using a detonator to set off the blast. Scientists (TRUST THE SCIENCE!!!) from Sandia National Laboratories proved that a simple mistake, an over-ram of the powder bags, could have set off the blast.

    The Navy replicated the experiment and were forced to admit that an over-ram could have set off the explosion. But they still stuck to their jilted gay lover/suicidal Sailor story as a viable proposition.

“as Seaman Apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays, a SEAL training washout”

SEAL contracts aren’t easily obtained. To get one a candidate has to go through a lot. Physical stuff for sure, but also psychological stuff. Because the drop-out rate at BUDS is pretty high, the Navy wants to recruit into BUDS only the most likely to succeed. And yet, after that effort, so many drop out.

How did they miss all the signs on this guy?

    henrybowman in reply to fscarn. | August 5, 2021 at 8:11 pm

    I have to wonder if this boy’s sudden passion for the SEALS was a result of a failure to cut the mustard at Advanced Electronics and Computers.

    But now the brass has a tidy story: Abandoned his major, rang the bell, flicked his Bic. We’ll see.

He’s probably not TaHE guy

But convenient…

But does this squid use correct pronouns?

I’d trust big Navy to have successfully identified the sole perp about as far as I ….. nevermind… I don’t. Not at all. The Navy has a 60 year track record of jumping to conclusions; coercion; framing; scapegoating and taking the easiest political path at any given time to focus blame or attention. I hope this youngster gets a good lawyer and a fair trial.

Let’s just hope this isn’t a case of “We gotta blame it on somebody” and this guy happened to be convenient.

Pretty thin “evidence”, at least what they’ve revealed so far.
The polygraph means nothing.
The “I got a sailor pregnant”, even if a lie, also means nothing, not being pertinent to the case. It might get him discharged, but worst case would be “less than honorable” vice a BCD.
Sailors claim they “see Mays around the fire scene before it was set, heard him say he was guilty while talking to himself, or heard him express extreme disdain for the Navy.” That means those sailors were also “around the fire scene”. If expressing “extreme disdain for the Navy” is a Court-Martial offense, half the Navy will be gone by next month. Hearing Mays confess might do the job, but it better be more than one & they better be able to show they heard him clearly.

    henrybowman in reply to Icepilot. | August 6, 2021 at 11:39 pm

    “When she was questioned, the sailor denied ever being pregnant and said Mays was ‘volatile and bipolar.’”

    I’m old enough to remember when people dated people to determine stuff like that before jumping in the sack with them.

      Char Char Binks in reply to henrybowman. | August 7, 2021 at 8:55 pm

      I’m old enough to know there’s nothing about the sentence you quoted that implies she jumped in the sack with Mays.

Not sure what his being a BUD/S washout has to do with anything. The program is designed to wash people out. They generally head back to the fleet and complete their duties.

    Idonttweet in reply to BuckIV. | August 5, 2021 at 8:05 pm

    Prosecutors will claim that as the reason he hates the Navy so much and that he started the fire to get revenge for washing him out.

      Sanddog in reply to Idonttweet. | August 6, 2021 at 3:09 am

      BUD/S didn’t wash him out, he voluntarily quit after 5 days.

        BuckIV in reply to Sanddog. | August 6, 2021 at 4:49 am

        Voluntarily quitting is how you wash out, but 5 days is a pretty brief stint. Makes it less likely that it was a contributing factor I’d think.

          RobM in reply to BuckIV. | August 6, 2021 at 4:53 pm

          5 days in BUDS/S is forever to normal ppl. He was probably behind the mental/physical power curve the entire time, but who knows. I will never criticize someone that ends up quitting one of these elite courses. There is a reason the ones that make it through at elite, or usually so. That the Navy is floating this as a reason is pure BS. They are scapegoating, and it’s all so easy since he’s a white male. Perfect for the 2021 Navy. sorry, but I’m cynical.

          Char Char Binks in reply to BuckIV. | August 7, 2021 at 9:04 pm

          Timothy McVeigh was a fine, even exemplary, soldier, but he washed out of special forces training, and that seems to have turned him to the Dark Side.

        Idonttweet in reply to Sanddog. | August 6, 2021 at 3:31 pm

        The prosecutors will portray it that in his mind “They” washed him out and setting the fire was his attempt at revenge

        Arminius in reply to Sanddog. | August 7, 2021 at 6:08 pm

        If the BUD/S instructors don’t think you belong on the teams, they’ll make you quit. And nobody in the world is better equipped to make you quit than those guys.

        But in all fairness to this Sailor, these articles are making it sound like getting into BUD/S and getting through five days of that hell is a small thing. It isn’t. It’s like getting drafted into the NFL and making it through all preseason games, only to get cut during the final round of cuts as the teams are filling out their official season rosters.

        I knew some good college football players who never set foot on an NFL gridiron. This Sailor made it to the SPECWAR equivalent of a tryout for the pro league. How many people do you know who can legitimately say that? And if you know people who do say that, they’re probably lying. Just like the odds of some guy sitting at the bar next to you being a SEAL are next to zero. Unless you’re drinking in a bar on Coronado or somewhere near Little Creek. Here in Texas if the guy at the bar next to you isn’t named Luttrell, dollars to donuts he’s not and never was a SEAL.

        I’ve already brought up the Iowa turret explosion. Fun fact about the Iowa class BBs. The Navy reactivated them beginning in 1982. By the time Desert Storm rolled around in 1990 the Sailors still didn’t know how to operate them. Then, as now, training is apparently an afterthought with the big picture geniuses inside the beltway. For Desert Storm the Navy reactivated retired Sailors from the WWII/Korean War era. It’s rare to get reactivated from the retired list. It’s even rarer to get reactivated if you’ve been retired for more than ten years (unless they find something they want to court martial you for). So they asked, politely this time, for volunteers. Those 70 to 80 y.o. guys were having the time of their lives. They didn’t have to lift a finger, just tell the younguns what to do and they were treated like the VIPs that they were.

        I liked seeing them have a good time and all. As they say, a good friend will bail you out of jail. A really good friend will be sitting next to you in the jail cell, saying “Damn that was fun.” But it seemed to me that after nearly ten years of operations the Sailors should have known how to run the boilers and steam turbines without having to reach back into the retired list.

        The Navy charged the skipper and XO of the San Antonio with all sorts of crimes back in 2009 (if memory serves) when a Sailor died while the San Antonio was conducting small boat operations. The captain accepted a letter of reprimand at Admiral’s Mast. I learned after Tailhook 1992 that if you’re guilty, accept NJP. If you’re innocent, insist on court martial. I guess the skipper had a guilty conscience. The XO didn’t; LCDR Kearns insisted on court martial, and was acquitted on all charges. Among the charges was dereliction of duty; big navy claimed he should have been on the bridge wing supervising the Sailors launching the RHIb. The reality of the situation was that due to the nice stealthy curve of radar avoiding superstructure, you CAN’T SEE AROUND THAT CURVE FROM THE BRIDGEWING TO WHERE THE RHIB IS LOCATED AND THE NAVY DIDN’T ****ING KNOW THAT.

        The Navy has a habit of charging people with crimes that they can’t back up with actual evidence. In 2017 after 2 fatal ship collisions and under pressure from Congress and the MFM to do something, anything, the Navy charged the skippers of the DDGs Fitzgerald and McCain with among other things manslaughter. Yeah, the whole thing was quietly dropped.

        So I’ll wait and see on this one, too.

      Arminius in reply to Idonttweet. | August 7, 2021 at 6:41 pm

      when I did my squadron tour my call sign was “Holy” since the admin types wildly misspelled my last name as Toledo on my orders. Not even close. But when I got to the squadron at Miramar they were like, “Meh. It still works.”

      So I’m walking around the carrier with the name “Holy” on my flight jacket. And Sailors ore coming up to me asking, “Excuse me, sir, are you the chaplain.”

      At first I told them no. But after a couple of days I was like, what the hell? I heard some interesting s***.

      The Navy wants to pin this fire on this guy because he said he hated the Navy? If I had a nickel for every Sailor who told me he hated the Navy, officers included, I’d be vacationing in the Aegean on a superyacht with the Swedish bikini team just off the interest.

    gospace in reply to BuckIV. | August 5, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    Actually, you’d be surprised (or is it shocked?) at the percentage who do not integrate successfully in the fleet and complete their duties. Start with- SA. 6 months as SR, 6 as SA, then SN- all automatic. Been more than a year since the fire- he’s still an SA. Or did he go backwards to become one? There’s far more to this story.

    Sanddog in reply to BuckIV. | August 6, 2021 at 3:07 am

    He washed out after 5 days. After reading the search warrant, he sound just like the typical, young fuckup who joins the Navy with delusions of grandeur. That doesn’t mean he set the fire but it does cause him problems when he keeps changing his story.

      RobM in reply to Sanddog. | August 6, 2021 at 4:55 pm

      Everything the Navy is saying should be read with a side-eye. They are setting a narrative, and I’m sure there is intense pressure on the kid to confess or accept a plea deal. The PR stuff is being released for a reason/purpose.

        Dave in reply to RobM. | August 7, 2021 at 6:32 am

        NCIS and the NLSO in San Diego did such a good job on the Eddie Gallagher case we should give them any credibility at all?

Seems like a good case, was all year needed to get that?

NCIS couldn’t find their collective @sses with both hands. There is zero evidence that is admissible in court and unless SA Mays confesses (and he won’t) there will be no perp in this crime.

Say, have any of the leadership team of the BH or the Navy been fired over the loss of a capital ship of the line? Nah. Just like the 17 sailors who died due to the criminal negligence on the Fitzgerald and the McCain there will be no justice.

    Sanddog in reply to Dave. | August 7, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    We’ll just have to see if they actually found anything actionable from the search warrant.