Investigators have determined that a man, whose body was pulled from the rubble after an explosion tore through a Gaithersburg, Maryland, condominium building on Wednesday morning, died by suicide.
Montgomery County officials said Friday that the deceased man, identified as 36-year-old Juan Pablo Marshall Quizon, had been reported to police as missing by members of his family who feared he was suicidal, after a blast and subsequent fire gutted a Potomac Oaks Condominium building.
For a third day, detectives continued to interview witnesses and search through the charred wreckage on Quince Orchard Boulevard to determine what caused Wednesday’s explosion, which injured 14 people and displaced dozens more. The discovery of what Montgomery County Chief of Police Marcus G. Jones said was a note from Quizon, as well as statements from residents who were familiar with the man, led investigators to deem his means of death as suicide.
“We have no information to believe that Mr. Quizon intended for other individuals to be injured or harmed in this particular incident,” Jones said at a news briefing Friday evening. “It is a criminal investigation for the fact that if Mr. Quizon was still with us, he would have been criminally culpable in this case, due to the fact several individuals are injured and the amount of property damage.”
Officials revealed little about Quizon, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation, but confirmed he had worked in the scrap metal business, and purchased a unit at 826 Quince Orchard Blvd. as recently as this August unbeknownst to his family.
Quizon’s mother, Jones said, had reported him missing to the Montgomery County Police Department around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday — about two hours after the blast took place — but was unaware of his Potomac Oaks address. Police carried out a search this week at a Derwood home, where Quizon had previously lived with his mother, but Jones would not comment on what, if anything, was recovered.
Quizon’s body was found Thursday afternoon in front of his ruined residence. A medical examiner reported he died of smoke inhalation and burn injuries. Jones would not elaborate further on Quizon’s suicide note, including when or where it was located.
“We’ve spoken to several individuals who are close to Mr. Quizon, and we know for a fact that he made statements that were indicative of intentions of suicide,” Jones said.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Chief Scott E. Goldstein said specialists had retrieved and were analyzing gas appliances that had belonged to Quizon’s unit, with assistance from the county fire marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Detectives were also sifting through data on the condo’s natural gas usage and flow rate.
Goldstein said MCFRS canines trained in the detection of fire accelerates turned up unspecified “items” on Friday, but added that current evidence does not point to an explosive device being used.
For residents, focus shifts to recovery
Forty-seven residents of Potomac Oaks Condominium had registered with county services as being displaced as of Friday evening, according to Goldstein. Of the displaced from Wednesday’s explosion, 10 are children.
“Families continue to be coordinated and contacted by the county, as well as the community support network in areas of mental health, food, emergency shelter, long-term planning and clothing,” Goldstein said. Local faith leaders and volunteer aid groups were collaborating to provide families with essential goods, including clothing, baby formula and diapers.
A fundraising effort led by Montgomery Housing Partners had yielded more than $62,000 for affected residents in the first 48 hours following the disaster, Goldstein reported — including a $15,000 contribution from Washington Gas. The group was still accepting donations online as of Friday night.
Of the 10 residents who were hospitalized with injuries from Wednesday’s blast, Goldstein said all had been treated and discharged by late Thursday.
WTOP’s Kyle Cooper contributed to this report.