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Day 2 in court: Witnesses testify about Navy warship arson suspect

Posted at 6:32 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 21:58:06-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Tuesday marked the second day in court for the 20-year-old sailor who's accused of setting the USS Bohomme Richard warship on fire two summers ago, which injured at least 70 people and took four days to knock down.

ABC 10News' cameras captured video on Monday of seaman Ryan Mays as he was walking into the courthouse at Naval Base San Diego for the start of his preliminary hearing. The hearing will determine if there's enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Our cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom where on Tuesday, prosecutors described him as a SEAL drop-out who hated the Navy. They called witnesses who said that he was disgruntled and combative but the defense confirmed with those witnesses that it was not uncommon to run into bitter sailors and dissatisfied SEAL drop-outs who were reassigned to work on the ship.

RELATED: First court appearance for sailor accused of setting Navy warship on fire

Prosecutors questioned one key witness, a fellow sailor, who said that right before the fire, he saw Mays in coveralls and a mask, carrying a bucket that appeared to have something in it, and that he was walking into the lower "V" storage area. That's the location where agents stated that the fire started.

The witness said that he never wanted to get Mays in trouble. The defense, though, argued that the witness had inconsistencies in his statements to authorities. At one point, the defense team said that he told agents that he was "kind of sure" that it was Mays because he didn't see the person's face, which had a mask on it.

Prosecutors played clips of video interrogations with Mays and NCIS agents. In part of the video, Mays made counter-accusations at the agent and suggested that the agent was lying.

RELATED: Navy creates fire safety group following fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard

Another witness who is a sailor described the moment that she said Mays discovered that he was being taken to the brig. She said that he mumbled, "I'm guilty. I guess I did had to be done."

This August, unsealed documents revealed possible sabotage of the firefighting efforts and tampering of evidence. A separate Navy report concluded that there were sweeping failures by both crew and command, calling the fire preventable and unacceptable.

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.