A LaGuardia Community College student was arrested Friday in a series of toilet paper fires that have plagued the Long Island City campus since late September when a security guard allegedly caught the man defacing a bathroom stall, authorities said.
Tad Czapkowicz, 19, of Brooklyn, was arraigned Saturday on multiple counts of arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief for allegedly setting fire to toilet paper rolls in campus bathrooms four times since Sept. 25, a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. Judge Pauline Mullings set bail at $50,000.
Czapkowicz was caught after campus police began staking out bathrooms in an effort to catch the arsonist in the act.
We are very pleased with the efforts of our security officers in coordinating with other city agencies to apprehend the suspect before any injuries took place of any kind, said Michael McSweeney, the community affairs director at LaGuardia, which is part of the City University of New York.
Czapkowicz was enrolled as a student at LaGuardia, said McSweeney, who would not reveal any more information about his status at the school due to confidentiality.
The arson pattern began around 2 p.m. Sept. 25 when flames shot to the ceiling of a bathroom in the college building at 29-10 Thompson Ave. after toilet paper was set on fire, according to the criminal complaint filed by the district attorney. Classes were in session at the time.
The wall of the bathroom stall was marred by graffiti that read R.I.P. LaGuardia College, a source said.
The pattern continued on each of the next three weekdays, closely following the precedent set by the first fire. Each time the toilet paper in a bathroom stall was ignited between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., accompanied by the same message scrawled on the wall of the stall.
Although firefighters responded to each alarm, the fires were all put out by building employees alerted by smoke detectors, McSweeney said.
Campus police eventually teamed up with police and fire departments to stake out the bathrooms, which led to Czapkowiczs arrest at 3 p.m. Oct. 4 when a security officer saw him writing graffiti on the wall of a bathroom stall, the complaint said.
Before that week ended, this person had been observed as suspicious looking, McSweeney said. He was definitely one of the students I guess who were watched with increased scrutiny.
Czapkowicz was found with a torch lighter, black powder pellets, percussion caps and other tools in his possession, the complaint said.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2002 Community News Group
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