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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