Suspect in explosion, fire at Chula Vista apartment faces judge

Posted at 5:33 PM, Oct 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 21:50:17-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A 32-year-old man faces multiple charges after explosives, weapons and drugs were allegedly found in his Chula Vista apartment, where a fire that displaced about 20 residents broke out.

David Wasson appeared in a Chula Vista courtroom Friday, but his arraignment was rescheduled to Monday.

On Monday afternoon, Wasson, who initially gave officers a fake name, claimed his shirt caught fire while he was cooking in his second-floor unit at the Seawind Apartments at 1067 Fourth Ave. He said he inadvertently tossed the burning shirt onto some gasoline containers, then evacuated the apartment, according to a Chula Vista police statement.

Neighbors saw a man later identified as Wasson running away from the building just before hearing explosions.

Firefighters evacuated the building -- one of nine at the complex -- while extinguishing the flames, Chula Vista Deputy Fire Chief Harry Muns said. Crews were able to confine the blaze to the apartment in which it erupted and had it out in about 10 minutes.

Police officers found Wasson shortly afterward suffering from burns. He was allegedly in possession of methamphetamine, heroin and ammunition at the time, and was also named in a no bail arrest warrant, police said.

Wasson was taken to a hospital along with a neighbor who sustained smoke inhalation while attempting to extinguish the fire, authorities said. Five people were evaluated at the scene for minor burns and respiratory complaints, Muns said.

Firefighters found "suspicious items" in the unit where the blaze erupted and summoned personnel from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, county Hazmat and the sheriff's Bomb/Arson Unit. Police said a search of the apartment turned up Molotov cocktails, ammunition, gasoline, an improvised explosive device and homemade zip guns.

Wasson was subsequently booked into jail on suspicion of possession of destructive devices, possession of a zip gun, drug possession and other charges. Police said he was not believed to have been involved with a criminal or terrorist organization.

The fire caused about $225,000 in damage to the building.

Residents impacted by fire return to apartment

Twenty residents displaced by the fire were finally allowed to return home Thursday night.

Lydia is 18 years old and already homesick for Texas since moving to Chula Vista with her husband for his Navy career. Now, she feels even more unsettled since she had to spend three nights in a hotel.

"We had to pay like $70 every night until then, and they didn't even allow us to grab clothes or anything," she said.

Lydia said the staff at the Seawind Apartments abandoned the tenants.

"No one said anything … the apartment people vanished after two hours of being there," she said.

Lydia's insurance company is telling her the property manager should relocate them or fix the damage, but she said, "They won't even clean our carpets that are pitch black."

Lydia is most upset with her neighbor, who she said subleased an apartment to Wasson even though he had a felony arrest warrant.

"She was renting it out to him; she didn't even ask any questions or anything," Lydia said.

Lydia is sad someone could have so little concern for the community.

"It's scary knowing because there's so many military families here," she said.

10News contacted the company that operates the apartment complex, but no one has called back.