Man with long criminal history charged in costly fire at Salpointe Catholic

Blood trail led police to arrest 26-year-old Forrest Harris on several charges, including arson
Forrest Harris
(Tucson Police Department)
Published: Jul. 31, 2022 at 5:30 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 1, 2022 at 2:48 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A man with a long criminal history has been arrested for allegedly starting the fire that caused millions in damage at Salpointe Catholic on July 17.

The Tucson Police Department said Forrest Harris, 26, was taken into custody July 30 on charges of arson, third-degree burglary and criminal damage.

Harris is being held on a $25,000 bond and was ordered to stay away from the school. Salpointe Catholic said Harris has no ties to the school and “the motive is undetermined at this time.”

According to the interim complaint, Harris entered the fenced yard at the school and broke several windows and electrical boxes. The TPD said investigators found blood on the windows, it was tested and led them to Harris.

Harris admitted to breaking a window, entering the school and setting the fire. No one else was inside the school at the time of the fire and there were no injuries.

The fire damaged the English building at the school, which is located at 1545 East Copper Street.

Harris, whose next court appearance is a preliminary hearing on Aug. 10, has a criminal history.

In June 2021, Harris was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia in Pima County.

In the city of Tucson, he was cited for criminal nuisance in October 2014 and shoplifting several times in the last two years -- in December 2020, July 2021, August 2021, November 2021 and May 2022.

Salpointe said the fire “destroyed the 700 English wing of the school and caused smoke, water and electrical damage to several other campus buildings. Expenses related to the fire are expected to be in the millions and insurance will cover remediation and replacement costs. (We are) grateful that no one was injured.”

The school said it will use modular classrooms to replace the six destroyed by the fire.

“As we have for the past 72 years, Salpointe will continue to lead the way in secondary education and serve our community of students, families and alumni with faithfulness and dedication,” said Salpointe President Kay Sullivan.

It has been a tough year for schools in the Tucson area.

On Jan. 23, Tucson Country Day School saw four of its vans, and part of its kitchen, destroyed by fire.

On Jan. 24, Kellond Elementary suffered more than $100,000 worth of damage when vandals broke windows and set a small fire on its roof.

On Feb. 6, YouthWorks Charter High was hit by vandals and had to replace several windows.

On Feb. 18, the playground at Lynn-Urquides Elementary was destroyed by fire.

On March 20, graffiti was painted on the walls and a table in the lunch room at Tanque Verde Elementary. The graffiti included a swastika and four Tanque Verde High students were arrested.

On May 3, there was a large-scale fight at Tucson High that led to at least two arrests.

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