Disasters · Massacres/Mass Murder · New York

Happy Land Social Club Fire, set by man angry at his ex, kills 87

March 25, 1990
Bronx, New York
87 people die and 6 are injured in a fire set intentionally by a jealous ex-boyfriend at an illegally-operating night club

Happy Land had been ordered to close in 1988 due to a lack of sufficient sprinklers and fire exits. Additionally, the club had blocked the few fire exits that did exist to prevent people from entering the building without paying a cover charge.

Julio González began arguing with his girlfriend who was an employee at the club. She told him she was leaving him, and was removed by the club bouncer when Julio tried to force his way back into the building.

Allegedly, González decided to get a gun to exact his revenge, but finding none he settled for a container of gasoline which he poured on the only entrance to the club before igniting it. Some trapped inside were able to escape by tearing down the gates barricading the fire exits. 150 firefighters responded and were able to control the blaze within five minutes of its ignition, but it burned fast and hit enough to still kill 87 and injure 6 including the club’s DJ who suffered third-degree burns over 50% of his body.

González was found guilty of 87 counts of murder and 87 counts of arson, receiving a sentence of 25 years to life for each victim, the maximum under New York law. However, under New York law, sentences for multiple murders are served concurrently rather than consecutively and González was eligible for parole in 2015. He was denied parole and in 2016 he died in prison of a heart attack at the age of 61.

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