The US sailor accused of torching a warship that burned for 4 days is a failed SEAL candidate who 'hated' the Navy and posted about napalm on Instagram: affidavit

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The US sailor accused of torching a warship that burned for 4 days is a failed SEAL candidate who 'hated' the Navy and posted about napalm on Instagram: affidavit
Ryan Sawyer Mays as seen in an Instagram post included in an affidavit accusing him of setting a Navy ship on fire. DOJ via The Daily Beast
  • The Daily Beast obtained documents naming Ryan Mays as the suspect in the USS Bonhomme Richard fire.
  • According to an affidavit, Mays dropped out of SEAL training and expressed hate for the Navy.
  • A fellow sailor told investigators he saw Mays entering the area where the fire started.

The sailor accused of setting an amphibious assault ship on fire last summer has been identified as a 20-year-old Seaman.

Ryan Sawyer Mays voiced hate for the Navy after dropping out of SEAL training, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast.

The Beast was first to name Mays as the sailor suspected of torching the USS Bonhomme Richard while it was docked in San Diego on the morning of July 12, 2020.

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The fire burned for four days, led to dozens of injuries, and caused so much damage that the Navy decided to scrap the ship instead of repair it.

A spokesman for the Navy's Third Fleet told Military.com last week that the sailor faces charges of wrongful hazarding of a vessel and aggravated arson.

Insider contacted Mays' defense attorney, Gary Barthel, for comment Wednesday morning, but did not immediately receive a response.

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The US sailor accused of torching a warship that burned for 4 days is a failed SEAL candidate who 'hated' the Navy and posted about napalm on Instagram: affidavit
A fire burns aboard USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego, July 12, 2020. US Navy/MCS2 Austin Haist via Getty Images

According to the affidavit, investigators believe the fire was the result of an arson in the lower vehicle storage area of the ship, referred to as "Lower V."

Several bottles were found near the site where the fire started that had small amounts of liquid in them. The liquid in one of those bottles was identified by testing as a flammable substance akin to diesel, kerosene, or jet fuel.

The affidavit includes a June 14, 2020 Instagram post by Mays, showing him standing near what appears to be a sleeping berth on a ship with the caption: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

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Napalm is an incendiary chemical; the line is a reference to a scene in "Apocalypse Now" about the US war in Vietnam.

A sailor told investigators in a questionnaire after the fire that he saw a "light-skin male" wearing a face mask go into the Lower V area just before the fire started.

The sailor didn't identify the man, but while discussing his answers with investigators mentioned that Mays "hates" the US Navy.

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The sailor later said he was "90% sure" that it was Mays he saw, based in part on height, build, and his fair hair, according to the affidavit.

Mays joined the Navy in 2019, and later decided he wanted to become a Navy SEAL, the document said. Mays started the SEAL selection process in October 2019, but dropped out just five days in. Mays then was reassigned to the USS Bonhomme Richard as an undesignated Seaman.

The affidavit noted that failing the SEAL selection process can be "very challenging" to sailors who then end up in more prosaic roles.

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In interviews with investigators, Mays repeatedly denied setting the ship on fire, the affidavit says. He agreed to undergo a polygraph test, it said, and some of his answers showed possible deception.

Mays also told investigators about troubles in his personal life. He said he recently ended an engagement with a female sailor after she became pregnant and he was told he wasn't the father.

But the female sailor denied his story to investigators, saying they had never been engaged and she wasn't pregnant.

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She described Mays as being volatile and "bipolar," according to the affidavit.

Investigators collected Mays' DNA but it has not matched any of the DNA found at the fire scene, according to the affidavit.

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