Ryan Mays, Sailor Accused of Starting Bonhomme Richard Ship Fire, Says He Was 'Set Up'

A federal search warrant was unsealed this week, revealing that Ryan Mays was the sailor charged with starting the massive Bonhomme Richard ship fire, and he says he was "set up."

Seaman Apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays, 20, from Kentucky, was named in the newly made public affidavit filed September 4, 2020, that allowed Navy Criminal Investigation Services (NCIS) agents access to his emails. The Navy filed charges July 29, 2020 against a then-unnamed sailor accused of starting the massive multi-day fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard amphibious naval assault ship that started on July 12.

Mays "maintained his innocence as to being the cause of the fire throughout the entire interview," the affidavit reads. "At one point, after being told that he had been identified as having descended the ramp to the Lower V, [what was later determined to be the origin point of the fire] before the fire started, Mays stated that he was being set up."

When interviewed by NCIS agents, Mays "repeatedly denied having started the fire on the BHR or having been in the Lower V on the day of the fire," according to the affidavit.

Interview testimony from some of his fellow sailors told a different story. Among interviews with 177 sailors, Seaman Kenji Velasco, who is only now being identified by name, told investigators he saw a "light-skin male" in coveralls and a facemask carrying a bucket into the Lower V about five minutes before the initial smoke started.

At that point, he said he didn't know who it was, but he "did mention a sailor named Mays that 'hates' the U.S. Navy and the Fleet," the affidavit says.

In later interviews, Velasco changed his testimony to say he now was "90 percent sure" the sailor he saw before the fire started was Mays, according to the affidavit, who also stated that a command master chief also "identified Mays as a person who showed disdain toward authority and the U.S. Navy."

Mays originally said anyone in the Lower V during a fire would be "f**ked" because there was only one way out. However, he later admitted he knew of other ways out. "MAYS admitted he had traversed at least one of the two conflagration station ladders where he learned to 'skate off and hide' from work," the affidavit states.

The affidavit also highlights a June 2020 Instagram post on Mays' since-removed account with a shirtless picture of the sailor and the caption: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

Continued investigation into May's alleged involvement has brought up more red flags, but so far, his DNA has not been connected to any DNA found at the scene.

Newsweek reached out to the Navy to find out Mays' current status in the Navy while the investigation is ongoing but did not immediately hear back.

Last year, after being commissioned in 1998 the Bonhomme Richard was retired by the Navy because of extensive damages and the prohibitive cost of necessary repairs, which were estimated at as much as $3.2 billion.

Bonhomme Richard
A federal search warrant was unsealed this week, revealing that Ryan Mays was the sailor charged with starting the massive Bonhomme Richard ship fire. This image shows the ship ablaze at Naval Base San Diego, July 12, 2020. Lt. John J. Mike/Getty