Reposted from KOAT7 ABC
Investigators say a night of drinking and other bad decisions by a security guard led to a devastating fire last month at the Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
Investigators say security guard Matthew Luxon not only left his post to go drinking with friends, but he brought them back to work with him, and that's when things really got out of hand.
Investigators say Luxon and two friends were shooting a gun from the balcony.
Next, they say Luxon and one of the friends, Lyle Thompson, rolled makeshift joints from plants on the balcony and smoked them in the maintenance room.
But they started coughing.
“During that coughing episode, the cigarettes fell out of their hands, igniting paper, which ignited the room on fire,” Mark Torres, with the Office of Superintendent of Insurance, said.
Crews say the fire triggered the sprinklers and prompted the alarm-monitoring company to call the center.
That's when investigators say the security guard made another mistake.
“He waived them off or told them that fire would not be needed at that time and that the system was under maintenance,” Torres said.
Crews say the guard then left without reporting it, meaning firefighters weren't actually called until security noticed the damage when they changed shifts hours later.
Arson investigators say they were able to narrow down the possibilities pretty quickly.
“There was no break-in, there was no smashed windows, so somebody inside the building had to know someone else was in the building,” Jimmy Vigil, with the New Mexico Fire Marshall's Office, said.
Investigators say they tracked down Luxon and he admitted to the whole thing.
Both he and Thompson are charged with negligent arson and evidence tampering.
Luxon is also charged with conspiracy.
Investigators say the third friend was not charged because she was not in the room when the fire started.
Meanwhile, adjusters are working to determine how much damage was caused.
“We're looking at roughly a half a million, but there are several articles that still need to be scoped,” property casualty bureau chief Rod Crawley said.
Adjusters believe any damage done to the artwork is minimal, but they expect portions of the center to remain closed for repairs for several more weeks.
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