A 17-year-old boy with a history of truancy problems was so angry at being expelled from Hoover High School that he set it afire, causing $2.9-million damage, police said Wednesday.
The unidentified boy, who was transferred from Hoover to a continuation high school in 1995, was arrested Tuesday night in connection with the Nov. 1 fire at Hoover, which gutted three classrooms, damaged 35 other rooms and forced the relocation of nearly 500 students to other campuses for more than two months.
He also stole computers and computer parts from classrooms and left satanic markings on school walls, police said.
Also arrested was Zavar Manokian, 20, a former Glendale High School student who is believed to have assisted the teenager in the crimes, police said.
"He felt he had been treated unfairly by the school system," said Sgt. Rick Young, who served a search warrant at the boy's house Tuesday night and later drove him to Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles, where he is being held.
"He was carrying a grudge, and these crimes were a way of retaliating."
Police said the 17-year-old was also a computer enthusiast, and that he had stolen thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment from Hoover, Glendale High and other campuses.
Police said the boy and Manokian broke into a third-floor physics classroom in Hoover's science building sometime after 12 a.m. on Nov. 1, stole an IBM Pentium personal computer and then returned to the room and set it ablaze.
"They claim that they sprayed WD40 on some attendance records that were in the room and then set them on fire," arson investigator Charles Lazzaretto said. "They said they thought they were in a building that wouldn't burn because it was made of brick, and they were amazed the next day when they came back and there was major damage."
The fire, reported by a passing motorist at about 2:30 a.m., destroyed valuable lab equipment, books and computers used by the school's advanced physics students, who used the classrooms that incurred the most damage.
Initial damage estimates were about $1 million, but the damage cost later rose when school officials realized the scope of the blaze.
"In one room alone there was $51,000 damage," Hoover Principal Theresa Saunders said. "These were all science classrooms, and science equipment is expensive," she said. "In some of the rooms, the asbestos was disturbed, and cleaning that up is expensive also."
Police Wednesday displayed items they said were seized from the two suspects' homes when a search warrant was served Tuesday night. The items included the IBM computer, a printer, numerous hard drives and CD-ROM drives, a stereo boom box and a crow bar believed used to pry open classroom doors. Police said they found a television stolen from one of the schools at Manokian's home.
Young said the suspects had no prior criminal record, and despite the satanic markings left behind he does not believe the two are hard-core Satanists.
"He's not a bad kid, just very misguided," Young said of the 17-year-old suspect. "He is very bright and articulate, but his attitude was very poor. His mother works nights, so he would stay up late watching TV and playing video games, then he would miss school the next day."
Manokian is scheduled to be arraigned today in Pasadena Superior Court, and the 17-year-old Friday in juvenile court. Both face felony arson and burglary charges, police said.