A man accused of purposefully flooding an entire eight-story apartment complex in Little Italy Monday now faces dozens of charges for assault and destruction of property.
Francisco Morales faces 45 counts of vandalism and eight counts of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, according to court documents. The vandalism charges account for instances where the damages exceeded $400.
“I thought it was a terrorist act at first, honestly. It was that crazy. It seemed like someone was trying to kill everybody in there. Yeah, it could have been way worse than it was,” said Ryan Lange, a resident at the Eighteen Ten State St. apartment complex.
The total damage was estimated to cost $800,000 to $1 million, according to prosecutors.
The presiding judge called Morales an “extreme danger” given the callousness of his alleged conduct.
Morales, 37, denied that he had mental health issues after his attorney said his family suggested he might.
Police did not provide a possible motive for the reported vandalism, according to Billy Hernandez with the San Diego Police Department. No residents who spoke with NBC 7 were familiar with Morales. They couldn't think of a reason anyone would want to flood the building, and they also questioned how Morales got into the complex because residents use a security badge.
Morales has no previous criminal record, according to SDPD.
Prosecutors did not give out any details about possible injuries to any of the tenants in the flooding, but they did say at least 45 units were impacted and 200 people were forced to move out.
Residents at the apartment complex, located near the corner of State Street and Elm Street, were surprised to find, at times, waist-high water.
Shocking video obtained by NBC 7 showed the building’s stairwell filled with water rushing from seemingly every direction.
Water also covered the floor of the parking area underneath the building. Some hallways were seen with pooling water that rose to the middle of resident’s shoes, while another hallway was seen with several feet of water.
Lange told NBC 7 he had to swim through ice-cold water to evacuate the apartment complex.
Multiple fans were placed around the building after most of the water was drained to begin drying out the apartments.
Some tenants have been wondering if they’ll be compensated for their damaged property. McMillin Little Italy LLC said it is consulting with its insurance company and will continue to assess the damages and come up with a plan for repairs.
Property Manager Alliance Residential released the following statement:
Thank you to everyone for following the appropriate procedures to quickly vacate your homes in the aftermath of the flooding that occurred in the early morning hours on Monday. We are grateful that, due to your quick response and the immediate actions of the firefighters and police officers who responded to the emergency call, no injuries were reported. The incident is under investigation and we are cooperating fully with the local authorities. Once they have completed their investigation, we will contact residents should any information need to be shared. Overall, the safety and wellbeing of our residents is our top priority and we are keeping in close contact with our remediation team so that we can provide updates as we have them directly to each of you regarding your individual homes. We thank you for your patience and understanding at this time.
Morales’ bail was set at $1 million.