Torrance police shoot, kill man suspected of arson, attempted murder

Torrance police shoot, kill man suspected of arson, attempted murder
Investigators stand over the body of a suspect in pair of arson fires who was killed in a confrontation with Torrance police at Madrona Middle School. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A man suspected of setting the apartment of his ex-girlfriend and their 2-year-old son on fire and then setting his mother's home ablaze was shot and killed Thursday by Torrance police after officers found him with a knife on the campus of a middle school.

Class was not in session at Madrona Middle School when Asa James Dolak, 19, was fatally shot about 1:35 p.m., Torrance Police Sgt. Robert Watt said.


Police said Dolak had had made it clear in telephone conversations with them that he did not intend to be taken into custody without a fight.

"He threatened his family and threatened to kill police if confronted," Watt said. "We took that threat very serious."

The chain of events began just after midnight Thursday when, authorities said, Dolak set fire to an apartment in the 16700 block of Crenshaw Boulevard. Fire crews and officers responded, and they rescued the toddler.

The child was treated for smoke inhalation and was listed in fair condition at a hospital, Watt said. The mother was not injured.

Watt said the arson attack was the result of "a domestic dispute that started verbally on Christmas Day."

He added that it was just one of several domestic issues involving the suspect and his ex-girlfriend, who has not been identified. Watt said Dolak had been arrested before by Torrance police for "minor stuff."

Police said that about 2 a.m. Thursday, Dolak went to his mother's home in the 3200 block of Opal Street and set that property on fire as well. Soon after, they found a clue to his whereabouts, Watt said.

"Officers located the vehicle that he used to go from crime scene A to crime scene B," he said.

Watt said an extensive search for Dolak ensued, and about 1:30 p.m. someone who "identically matched Mr. Dolak" was seen at the school. The teenage suspect was seen in a girls' restroom, bleeding from a hand and with a knife.

Watt said a short foot pursuit began and that Dolak ran to a nearby sports field, where police fatally shot him.

"He confronted the officers and failed to comply with their demands, and ultimately there was an officer-involved shooting," Watt said. "He was armed with a knife."

Watt said the school was empty of students and staff because of winter break.



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