Arson

TPD officials identified 26-year-old Forrest Harris responsible for starting the fire at Salpointe Catholic High School on Sunday, July 17. Harris was also charged with third degree burglary and criminal damage. (Tucson Police Department/Submitted)

The Tucson Police Department announced an arrest over the weekend of 26-year-old Forrest Harris in connection to the Salpointe Catholic Fire that occurred on Sunday, July 17.

TPD responded to a call on Saturday, July 30, over a dispute about a dog, near North Country Club Road and East Grant Road and were able to identify and locate Harris due to an internal “stop and arrest”. A stop and arrest means there is enough probable cause to make an arrest.

After interviews, TPD found further probable cause to arrest Harris and officially charged him with arson of an occupied structure and booked him into the Pima County Jail. He was also charged with third-degree burglary and criminal damage.

Based on forensic evidence that was collected by Tucson Fire Department investigators at the fire scene, blood DNA connected Harris to the fire, according to Sergeant Richard Gradillas, spokesman for TPD.

“Our investigators did a lot of work to identify various ignition sources and sent off samples to labs to analyze where that fire might have started,” Michael Colaianni, spokesman for TPD said. Investigators handed over evidence and samples to TPD’s arson investigator who was able to make the arrest, Colaianni said.

The fire, which began in the attic space in the 700 English wing on the southeast corner of campus, destroyed six classrooms and will have to be rebuilt.

On July 21, school officials announced in a press release that the first day of school would be postponed by one week “in order to guarantee a safe and fully operational campus.”

“When the students come back on August 15, all of the classrooms will be functional with the exception of six classrooms and held in high-quality modular units that will [temporarily] work as our classrooms,” said Jennifer Harris, director of advancement at Salpointe Catholic High School.

The high school is going through the restoration process of smoke, water and electrical damages that were found throughout the 300 and 400 wings on the northeast side of campus and estimates the damages to be in the millions of dollars.

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