Man accused in Bound Brook arson ordered to stay in jail; judge cites ‘disturbing’ Facebook posts

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A man accused of starting a fire that destroyed several buildings in downtown Bound Brook was ordered to remain in jail until his trial.

Somerset County Superior Court Judge Kevin Shanahan said that Juan Hector Padilla posed a danger to the community. Shanahan cited several “disturbing” social media posts allegedly made by Padilla.

Prosecutors say that surveillance video from Jan. 12, the day of the fire, appears to show Padilla entering a liquor store just before 6:30 p.m. He is seen wearing a black shirt that read “Savage Self Made” inside of a white square. Investigators say that they used that distinctive white square to track Padilla through several other surveillance cameras.

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Prosecutors say that at 7:24 p.m. Padilla is seen with something in his hand while walking toward the Meridia II apartment complex on Main Street. He is then allegedly seen leaving down the same path at 7:49 p.m.

The massive fire started at 7:51 p.m. It spread to several buildings, destroying at least four others. Dozens of people were displaced.

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“This incident had a tremendous impact on the Bound Brook community,” said assistant prosecutor Yoana Yakova. “The fire took over the entire building and then spread.”

Judge Shanahan said that it was due to social media posts allegedly made by Padilla, that he felt the need to keep Padilla in jail.

“On Jan. 4, 2020, [Padilla] indicates, quote, ‘I’m going to start the fire at 7.’ And then, of particular significance, on Jan. 12, 2020, at almost 4 p.m., he posts, ‘I will burn the world to the ground.’” Shanahan said.

But Padilla’s lawyer argued that his client should be freed pending his trial, saying he posed a low risk of flight and had ties to the community, including his young children.

Padilla is charged with arson and hindering an investigation.

Officials say that they estimate the cost of the damage caused by the fire to be nearly $52 million.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story included incorrect dates.


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