SAN JOSE – 32-year-old Craig Morales was arrested on Sunday, July 19 on charges ranging from PC 451 – felony arson, PC 148 (A)(1) – resisting, delaying and or obstructing an officer, and for HS 11550 – being under the influence of a controlled substance. Bail for Morales has been set at $100,000.
According to family members, Morales was living with his father, Antonio Morales at the apartment complex located at 336 North 5th Street, not far from the San Jose’s City Hall. His brother Adam Morales said “He was known for pulling cruel pranks on family members, such as saying that their father was dead.”
Adam explained that Craig had a history of going in and out of mental hospitals, and had been hospitalized twice in a Fremont mental health facility, along with recently being released from the EPS services at Valley Medical Center.
However, he explained this new incident topped any irrational behavior previously displayed by his brother. Morales said that when he saw his booking photo on the news he did not recognize him, and that his appearance had changed dramatically. Morales said, “That was not my brother.”
Family members were angry that he had burned his father’s apartment, leaving the man with only a tank top and shorts standing outside the burning apartment during Morales’ drug fueled rampage. The family knew about his erratic behavior and problems with the use of methamphetamine, but never imagined that he would be capable of something like this.
The residents living below Morales heard him stomping around the apartment for several hours before they called the police to report his erratic behavior, as they also heard him arguing with his father, whom he had locked out of the apartment. The San Jose Police Department arrived with multiple officers on scene to confront Morales, but were met with hostility as he threw knives and chairs at the responding officers while they tried to reason with him.
During the episode police fired rubber bullets to try to subdue him, but were unable to enter the apartment due to the dangers of the iron railings and instability of the outer rail. A Police Lieutenant advised responding officers to back off in order to let the suspect calm down, and hopefully family members could then help deal with his mental health issues and take him to the hospital for help. The reason for the retreat of officers included their inability to safely remove the suspect from the apartment without causing deadly harm to Morales or the responding officers.
Many residents at the apartment complex had known Craig Morales for more than five years. Nikki Casteillo, who works as a Barista at Starbucks, said “Mostly everybody who lives here is in recovery.” With three small children Casteillo became increasingly nervous. She said, “We didn’t know how bad his drug addiction was.” Casteillo said that the police were called after the apartment manager Michael Martinez tried to have Craig open the door for his father. After he refused to open the door, the manager had no choice but to call police.
Casteillo witnessed Morales throwing a knife and then several chairs at SJPD officers after they tried to get Morales to step outside. Casteillo said she then watched from the manager’s apartment as police fired more than five rubber bullets at Morales before he retreated back into the apartment. Once inside the apartment police officers left after having no other means available to them to restrain the suspect. Then an estimated 14 minutes later the apartment was set on fire. However, Morales remained in the apartment as the blaze began to envelop the apartment. Casteillo and her fiancé Larry Galvan, who lived below the suspect, had taken their three children and left the area.
Police had now returned to the scene, and were able to take Morales into custody, after he was Tasered and while San Jose Fire responded to the burning building.
Casteillo, Galvan and her three children are now trying to find answers of where they will be spending their next few nights without their apartment, and everything that was damaged inside. All of their belongings were wet and had severe smoke damage, as the fire had spread from the upstairs apartment down into their single bedroom unit through the heating vent leading to the wall heater.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Galvan, Valadez, and other families who lost everything to the fire. Six families were displaced by the fire, with others questioning when they would have to vacate their homes.
Julie Martinez, who is a resident at the apartment complex, said that she had met with the landlord, who told her that once the construction starts, she will most likely have to move out as well. She said, “I don’t have anywhere to go.” Martinez is worried that with rents soaring out of control, she will not be able to find an affordable apartment. “We heard everything,” Martinez said. “When I walked out I saw him walk right through the flames and then back inside the apartment, but didn’t catch on fire.”
Martinez was concerned because they had been friends for more than three years. “We would see him when he got high, and then we would try and help him,” Martinez said. “They are my neighbors I love them, and it’s sad to see what they are having to go through.” To help the residents you can submit donations through PayPal by using the email address robinL@Lcomm.com.
Michael Montoya, who is the property manager on site, said “When the police left we were wondering what was going on. And then the fire happened.” Without knowing police had left, Craig Morales continued to rage inside the apartment, eventually setting it on fire. “He was messed up,” Montoya said. “When stuff like this happens, what do I do?”
Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Michael Gadeberg said, “The District Attorney’s Office would like to see the mental health issue of the suspect addressed.” No other information was available. Morales is expected to appear in Dept 23, in the San Jose Hall of Justice at 1:30 PM on July 23, 2015 for arraignment.
Photographs by Amy Nilson