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Police arrest teen in band building fire
Updated On: Aug 21, 2007

Police arrest teen in band building fire

Norwalk Hour
August 21, 2007

Police arrested a city teen Monday in connection with the Andrews Field fire last week that destroyed more than $500,000 worth of the Norwalk High Marching Bears' band equipment.

After learning of a warrant for his arrest, the teen boy turned himself in to detectives Monday afternoon, said Lt. Thomas Cummings, head of the Detective Bureau.

The boy was released after posting a $5,000 bond and will be tried as a youthful offender, so police will not release his name, Cummings said.

He declined to release more information, pending a news conference today.

The suspect's arrest offers little comfort to band members, junior drummer Mikey Dick said.

"I'd rather them be caught, but it still doesn't changed that it happened," he said.

Jerry Petrini, president of Marching Bears Inc. said he agreed.

"I think the damage is done at this point," he said. "Whether it was intentional or a stupid prank that got of hand (it's terrible)."

Petrini said he was not surprised to learn the boy suspected of starting the fire was underage. The area of the Andrews Field shed has been several times the target of vandals — who many close to the situation have speculated are youngsters.

Last week's fire was deemed suspicious and examined by state and local fire officials who collected evidence and used dogs to search for accelerants that could have been used by an arsonist to help the fire spread.

On Thursday, the charred building remains were apparently rifled through and looted, prompting the erection of a plastic fence to secure the scene.

Saturday morning, Petrini drove to Andrews Field to find the fences ripped down and two portable toilets flipped over.

"If it is happens to be the same person or people it's almost like they're thumbing their nose at us like 'hey, keep us away," he said.

Prior to the Aug. 16 fire, the storage building was damaged by graffiti, instruments were vandalized, and a fire burned down the kitchen area in 2000, officials said.

The post-fire vandalism last week fueled a Board of Education decision to hire a night-time guard from a private security company and put up a "galvanized, woven steel" fence Monday night, said Stuart Opdahl, Norwalk Public Schools chief operating officer.

It could be in place for several weeks, Opdahl said Monday.

"It's going to be up there until the insurance company tells us we can tear the building down," he said. "That is a recommendation of the fire marshal and ... the insurance company. Somebody can get hurt and we've already had to chase people out. The first night, we had people going in there and pulling stuff out."

The fence will protect only a gutted building —100 music stands, two electric pianos, a vibraphone, ice machines, band props, 50 pairs of pants and 60 pairs of shoes were lost in the fire, according to Band Director Jeff Smith.

"It's a major loss to the band youngsters and to the band parents group and ... it's really rather a shame that a youngster would be involved in something that would be so critical," Opdahl said.

If, in fact, the alleged perpetrator attends Norwalk schools, "that's even more drastic," he said. But "that remains to be seen."

Jill Griffin-Wells, secretary for Norwalk High School whose son plays bass clarinet, said though she hates to see children punished, she'd like to see those responsible brought to justice for the fire damage.

"I think people who do things like that, especially at an early age, something needs to be done with them so they don't do something more drastic in the future," she said.

Opdahl and Schools Superintendent Salvatore Corda declined to comment on whether the Board of Education will seek community service or repayment of the damages, adding that they hadn't heard about the arrest before The Hour called them Monday.

"It's somewhat premature to really comment about that," Corda said. As litigation progresses, "if there is an involvement for us, we'll consider what our options are if and when that involvement takes place."

 

Noelle Frampton covers police and courts. She can be reached at (203) 354-1006 or nframpton@thehour.com. Staff writer Amanda Pinto can be reached at 354-1045 or apinto@thehour.com.



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