Butch’s Bar tenant held on $250K bond on charges for fatal fire
STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A 57-year-old man is facing reckless homicide charges for the deadly fire at Butch’s Bar in Sturgeon Bay.
The suspect was identified as Anthony Gonzalez. He was a tenant who lived in a rental unit above the bar.
Sturgeon Bay Police say Gonzalez was arrested for two counts of Second Degree Reckless Homicide and five counts (new figure) of Second Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety. The prosecutor mentioned another charge of negligent handling of a burning material during his court hearing Friday afternoon.
The fire on February 22 killed two people. Both of their bodies were recovered Thursday.
A third tenant was sent to a Milwaukee burn center Tuesday. The prosecutor says that person was found hanging out of a window complaining about the heat and was rescued using a ladder.
“Others who lived there and called Butch’s Bar home narrowly escaped further tragedy,” police say.
The prosecutor told the court Gonzalez escaped the fire and told first responders he spilled lighter fluid while filling a butane lighter. He said it “started spewing fluid all over the place” including his hands and mattress.
The prosecutor described Gonzalez then “decided to strike the lighter because he wanted to smoke a cigarette, struck it once, it didn’t light, struck it again, it lit the fluid on fire, catching the corner of the mattress on fire.”
He tried to put out the fire with a pillow but then saw smoke coming from the ceiling. He started knocking on doors to alert other apartments.
“He ran out of the apartment and yelled for someone to call 911. He pounded on a neighbor’s door, told that neighbor that his bed had caught fire. Later, they ran from that room back into his room with a fire extinguisher but it was too hot to enter any further than just a couple of feet.”
Gonzalez lived above Butch’s Bar for about two years.
Police arrested Gonzalez on Thursday, Feb. 24. Gonzalez was booked into the Door County Jail.
The judge said a significant cash bond was warranted and set it at $250,000. The judge ordered Gonzalez not to have any contact with victims of the fire or the families of the deceased victims. The judge added he can’t have anyone else contact them except his attorney.
Gonzalez is scheduled to return to court Monday for his initial appearance.
The only time Gonzalez spoke during the hearing was to express concern that he’ll lose his job. The judge told him to discuss that with his attorney.
A fundraiser has been established for people who were displaced by the fire. The fund is the Nicolet Bank - United Way of Door County - Butch’s Bar Fire Victims Relief Fund.
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