LCSO Arson Suspect Arrested in School Fire

November 22, 2023 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

Starting a fire in a dwelling, structure, or conveyance can create a danger to yourself and any other individuals in the surrounding area. Aside from the physical dangers of starting a fire, it is also illegal. In the state of Florida, burning a building, or creating a fire within a building, can result in charges for arson.

The crime of arson can seem nuanced, and Florida has various laws and penalties in place for those who unlawfully set fires, which you can read about in our Guide to Florida’s Arson Laws.

This blog post will provide details on a recent arson case that took place on the grounds of a North Florida elementary school, along with information on the methods involved in investigating arson cases throughout the state.

Example Case Details

A Leon County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) deputy responded to Killearn Lakes Elementary School on October 2, 2023, after the school administration found signs of a potential arson.

According to LCSO’s press release, the arriving deputy found significant damage to the elementary school’s boiler room, including to its mechanical equipment. It was determined through the investigation that the damage to the school had been completed the previous day on Sunday, October 1.

LCSO identified Daniel Foor, 19, as the suspect in the case. Police claimed that Foor broke onto the school’s campus and into the boiler room. From there officers believe Foor poured a “significant amount of gasoline, lit the accelerant, and fled the campus.”

Detectives interviewed Foor on October 5, when he admitted to the act. and transferred him to the Leon County Detention Facility on charges of second-degree arson, and burglary of a dwelling or structure causing over $1,000 in damages.

Details on Defendant’s Charges

Foor was charged with arson in the second-degree and burglary of a dwelling. Let’s break that down.

Under Florida Statute Section 806.01, the crime of arson is either a first-degree or second-degree felony.

For a defendant to be charged with first-degree arson, it implies they willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, damaged or caused damages by fire or explosion to:

  • Any dwelling, whether occupied or not, or its contents;
  • Any structure, or contents thereof, where persons are normally present, including:
    • Jails or prisons;
    • Detention centers;
    • Hospitals or other health care facilities;
    • Department stores;
    • Office buildings;
    • Business establishments;
    • Churches;
    • Educational institutions (during normal hours of occupancy); or
  • Any other structure the defendant knew had reasonable grounds to believe was occupied by a human being.

For a defendant to be charged with second-degree arson, it implies they willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, damaged or caused damage by fire or explosion under any circumstances not referred to in subsection (1).

Although Foor broke into a school, which falls under the category of first-degree arson as an ‘educational institution,’ since the arson took place outside of normal hours of occupancy, it could explain why he was charged with a second-degree arson charge.

LCSO’s press release stated that Foor was also charged with ‘burglary of a dwelling or structure causing over $1,000 in damages.’ Under Florida Statute Section 810.02, the crime of burglary can range from a third- to a first-degree felony.

Causing damage costing more than $1,000 to any dwelling or structure falls under the category of a first-degree felony, when the defendant either:

  • Makes an assault or battery upon any person during the burglary;
  • Is or becomes armed within the dwelling, structure, or conveyance, with explosives of a dangerous weapon; or
  • Enters an occupied or unoccupied dwelling or structure, and:
    • Uses a motor vehicle as an instrumentality, other than merely as a getaway vehicle, to assist in committing the offense, and thereby damages the dwelling or structure; or
    • Causes damage to the dwelling or structure, or the property within the dwelling or structure more than $1,000.

Who Investigates Arson Cases?

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has Certified Fire Investigators (CFIs) who work as special agents responding to fires. Their role is deploying to fire scenes and conducting scene examinations to identify, collect, and analyze arson-related evidence.

To become a CFI, agents are required to have first served with ATF for at least three years, reach the GS-12 level, and complete the CFI certification program that includes the following:

  • Investigating 100 fire scenes;
  • Writing as an author to at least 80 technical origin and cause reports;
  • Working on 15 scenes with a current ATF CFI;
  • Completing extensive reading and written requirements;
  • Completing 30 online modules;
  • Completing 7 in-person training courses; and
  • Completing 5 graduate-level courses.

In the state of Florida, law enforcement may request a Fire Marshal to be involved in an arson investigation.

Florida Statute Section 633.112(a) further explains that whenever a fire or explosion occurs that results in property damage or destruction in any municipality, county, or special district having an organized fire department, any local fire official whose intent is to request the State Fire Marshal to perform an investigation shall make or shall cause to be made an initial investigation of the circumstances surrounding the cause and origin of the fire and/or explosion.

Section(b) further explains that if the fire or explosion occurred in a municipality, county, or special district without an organized fire department or designated arson investigations unit may request the State Fire Marshal to conduct the investigation.

Forensic Evidence in Arson Cases

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), after an arson incident has occurred, an investigation must take place to ultimately determine if the fire was started deliberately, by accident, or through other causes.

The DOJ further explains that when investigating arson cases, detectives can look for clues such as the smoke color, flame color, and odors present at the scene of the fire. Signs that may indicate an arson crime has occurred include the following:  

  • Signs of forceful entry into the structure;
  • Indication of another crime committed on the premises;
  • Evidence of efforts to prevent firefighter access to the building;
  • Windows left open;
  • Holes made into the walls;
  • Interior doors tied open;
  • Removal of valuable property from the premises before the fire started;
  • Tampering with gas lines or electrical appliances on the premises;
  • Burglar alarms or sprinkler systems rendered inoperable;
  • Blinds or shades pulled down to obstruct the outside view of early fire stages;
  • Indications of the use of timing devices;
  • Multiple points of origin; or
  • The presence of unusual accelerants.

ATF Arson Report

Each year, ATF releases its Arson Incident Report (AIR) that covers arson-related incidents reported to the United States Bomb Data Center (USBDC) through the Bomb Arson Tracking System (BATS).

In its 2021 report, AIR identified 22,893 total fire-related incidents. Out of those, 6,465 incidents were considered “incendiary” or arson. Fires caused by arson made up 28 percent of all fires reported that year. The damage resulting from the fires was estimated at more than $2.2 billion, with 966 injuries and 562 reported fatalities.

During 2021, AIR reported 180 fires associated with “education.” The term education refers to any educational institution, including daycares, elementary schools, high schools, and colleges. The annual report provided the following data on types of education structures involved in arson cases:

  • Preschool or daycare: 5 arson cases
  • Elementary school: 36 arson cases
  • Middle school/High school: 49 arson cases
  • College/University: 5 arson cases
  • Other: 5 arson cases

Looking at incendiary fires by state, Florida ranks as the third highest with 649 reported arson cases, only behind Illinois (1,116) and Texas (689).

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Tallahassee, FL

The last thing the sunshine state needs is more heat. It is especially important that you are aware of the state laws on arson and its resulting penalties if you or a loved one have recently been accused of starting an unlawful fire. If you are facing criminal prosecution, it is in your best interest to hire a criminal defense firm to represent your case.

The attorneys with Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience on cases involving arson, burglary, and other felony offenses. During a free consultation, we can review your case details. If you choose our attorneys to represent your case, we can provide you with insight and help strategize defenses. If the case goes to trial, then we will fight aggressively to win back your freedom. Contact our office today at (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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