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Officer Is Arrested in Fire at Academy

The LAPD veteran is suspected of setting the blaze he reported at the police training facility.

November 22, 2005|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

An LAPD officer who called 911 early Sunday to report a fire at the Los Angeles Police Academy was arrested on suspicion of intentionally setting the blaze, authorities said Monday.

The fire damaged part of the gymnasium and burned a small portion of a rock garden before firefighters could extinguish it, said Mary Grady, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

"After the Fire Department put it out, they became suspicious about the cause," she said. "Arson investigators believed it was deliberately set and began to question the statements by the officer."

Officer Jonathan Sugar, 41, was taken into custody that morning.

The fire consumed a 20-foot by 40-foot area of brush in the rock garden often used for weddings, and caused about $5,000 in damage to the exterior of the gymnasium at the Elysian Park facility, said Jim Wells, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

In addition to fire officials, LAPD internal affairs detectives also responded to the scene and are undertaking their own investigation into the matter, Grady said.

Sugar, a 15-year veteran of the department, was booked Sunday night and released without bail early Monday.

Grady said he is an officer at the Devonshire Division police station in the San Fernando Valley but was on loan to the LAPD's Training Division, which operates the academy.

Department officials could not say whether Sugar was back on the job Monday.

It is usual, however, for an officer arrested in a crime to be assigned to home duty pending a resolution of a crime allegation.

Sugar could not be reach for comment.

The 21-acre Los Angeles Police Academy was the setting for the 1932 Olympics' pistol and rifle competitions.

The facility includes fountains, waterfalls and flowers, and is home to classrooms, a gymnasium, track, athletic field and obstacle course, as well as a firing range.

Grady said the fire did not affect operations at the academy.

Neither Grady nor officials at the Los Angeles Fire Department, which is leading the probe, could say what the motive for the fire might be.

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