DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN —The man who investigators said lit the blaze that engulfed one of New York City’s largest parking garages in smoke and flames went before a judge for the first time on Tuesday afternoon.
Evon Stephens, 23, confessed to the crime, according to the criminal complaint against him.
It also said that the self-described homeless man lit the fire for reasons involving sex taking place at the garage.
For the second day in a row on Tuesday, Kings Plaza mall was closed for business.
The closure followed the conflagration which left 21 people injured, including 18 firefighters, and totaled at least 135 vehicles, most of them Mercedes, according to the complaint.
The fire broke out on the garage’s second floor.
That’s where Stephens was spotted in surveillance video after 8:15 a.m. Monday, according to the complaint, filed by federal prosecutors here.
It says that in the video, Stephens is seen gaining access to one of many dozens of cars for sale kept at the garage by a local Mercedes dealership.
Once inside the car, the complaint says, Stephens is seen in the video moving around inside the vehicle.
The car is then seen lighting into flames and smoke, and Stephens leaves the area.
Very quickly, prosecutors say in the complaint, much more of the second floor is seen in surveillance video going up in thick smoke and flames.
Stephens “was motivated to start the fire by his belief that others used the parked vehicles for sexual activity,” according to the complaint.
It adds that on his way out of the garage from the fire, Stephens spotted a surveillance camera and made an obscene gesture toward it.
He was arrested on Monday evening, about eight hours after the fire started.
Stephens expressed remorse late Monday night, as detectives walked him out from the local NYPD precinct to a car waiting to take him to a holding cell in advance of his first court appearance.
“I’m sorry,” Stephens said. “I apologize,” he added, just before detectives shut the car door Monday night.
At his hearing on Tuesday afternoon, Stephens was wearing the same clothes in which he had been seen on surveillance video on Monday.
He mumbled a few one-word responses to questions asked of him by the judge, and kept his head down for all of the hearing.
Some of the time he held his head in one or both hands.
At the end of the hearing, the judge gave Stephens no bail, as prosecutors had asked.
They said that he also had an attempted burglary conviction on his record, as well as outstanding warrants.
The court-appointed defense attorney said that he and his client would not dispute the order, since Stephens had no resources to pay any bail at this time.
In addition to apologizing on camera for the crimes, Stephens apologized to investigators, according to the criminal complaint.