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Task Force Arrests 'Acid Sprayer' Suspect

July 31, 1986|MARK HENRY | Times Staff Writer

A man suspected of splattering at least 300 cars and five people with a caustic liquid since April was arrested Wednesday after he was spotted spraying two cars in a Valencia parking lot, police said.

Los Angeles Police suspect that Thomas L. Larsen, 37, a deliveryman from Los Angeles, is the so-called "acid sprayer" who has vandalized cars, most of them newer models, across the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Simi valleys and as far away as Orange County, Lt. Rick Violano said.

The five people splashed by the liquid, including a 9-year-old Canoga Park girl, suffered only minor injuries and were not hospitalized, he said.

Members of the undercover police task force known as the Cobra Corps arrested Larsen on suspicion of assault with a caustic chemical about 10:45 a.m. after he left the Granary Shopping Center in Valencia, where was seen squirting two cars from a spray bottle, and pulled his van to the side of the road, Sgt. Paul Mattson said.

"They just crept up on the vehicle and took him by surprise," Mattson said.

Mattson said he followed Larsen into the shopping center parking lot at 25930 N. McBean Parkway and witnessed him spraying the cars.

About 10 officers from the task force began tailing Larsen in unmarked police cars on Monday and logged hundreds of miles following him across Southern California streets, he said.

Police on Wednesday were analyzing the chemical, which some car owners thought was water until they later noticed that the liquid ate through paint.

Most of the damage estimates ranged from $50 to $500, police said.

Police declined to identify Larsen's employer or say how he became a suspect.

Larsen was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail at the Devonshire Division police station in Granada Hills, Violano said. His arraignment is scheduled for Friday.

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