Self-storage tenants hoping to retrieve their salvageable belongings from fire-destroyed Metro Mini Storage in Atascocita, Texas, earlier this week were mostly blocked from gaining entry to the facility and kept in the dark about the status of their goods. They were outraged as demolition crews began tearing down the structure and clearing debris, according to the source.
More than 20 customers showed up at the facility on Tuesday after a three-alarm fire caused substantial damage on Sunday. Investigators suspect arson in the case and have arrested 19-year-old Benjamin James Patrick La Chapelle.
Tenants could only watch as crews used backhoes to load debris into large dumpsters. The self-storage owner reportedly would not allow anyone to enter the property, although some business clients were able to check their units and recover a few items, according to the source. Others had workers take pictures of their units for them.
Deputies from the Harris County Sheriffs Office were called multiple times to remove people from outside the facility gate because the owner felt threatened, the source reported.
Joey Kovacik, who runs a mobile disc-jockey business, said he lost about $100,000 between two box trucks and lost equipment. A woman said she stored rare books, antiques and other items in a climate-controlled unit. Another tenant who had insurance to cover the loss of her items was told her adjuster could not access the property, according to the source.
Investigators believe La Chapelle deliberately set fire to the storage facility but have not indicated a motive. He is being held in Harris County Jail on $10,000 bond.