12-year-old charged in campus fires
URBANA — A 12-year-old Champaign boy was charged in a juvenile petition in Champaign County Circuit Court Monday after admitting he set three fires on or near the University of Illinois campus Thursday.
University of Illinois police Sgt. Tom Geis said an alert patrol officer who was investigating the first of the three fires recognized the youth from surveillance video and arrested him the next day.
Geis said the first fire was reported about 4:10 p.m. Thursday in the tunnel between the UI Undergraduate Library and the Main Library. A smoke detector activated and Urbana firefighters found a charred garbage can.
As Officer Ryan Lepp was finishing collecting evidence there about 5:15 p.m., there was a second fire reported inside a UPS drop box in the 600 block of East Green Street. Champaign firefighters quickly put that fire out with water.
About 7:30 p.m., there was a third fire reported outside a building in the 400 block of South Sixth Street near the corner of Sixth and Stoughton streets. Geis said UI and Champaign police used fire extinguishers to put out the flames, which appeared to have started in a small compost pile outside the building.
Geis said Lepp, the officer who took the tunnel fire report, looked at surveillance video and identified two boys he believed were responsible. On Friday, he was patrolling around the Illini Union and saw the same boys about 8:30 p.m. in the north circle drive.
When he approached, they took off and after a brief foot chase, were caught near the south side of the Grainger Library, north of where Lepp first saw them.
Geis said Officer Darren Lewis helped Lepp and learned from the younger of the two brothers that he was responsible for all three fires.
The boys were taken to the Juvenile Detention Center.
State's Attorney Julia Rietz charged the younger of the two with criminal damage to government property. The older was not charged.
Judge Harry Clem ordered that he be released to his mother. He's due back in court Aug. 14.