LAUREL- A 13-year-old boy was arrested Friday on suspicion of intentionally setting fire to the Laurel Post Office Thursday and a second attempted arson at the Laurel Walmart, according to Laurel Police Chief Stan Langve.
Langve said the Laurel boy was arrested on suspicion of arson, attempted arson and criminal endangerment.
According to Langve, the two incidents were initially connected when a post office employee went to Walmart to purchase particulate masks out of concern for the air quality in the post office.
The post office employee told a Walmart employee the reason behind the purchase, and the Walmart employee then mentioned that there had been an arson attempt at the Walmart as well.
The attempted Walmart arson occurred about two hours before authorities responded to the post office, Langve said. The Walmart is a little over a mile from the post office.
The boy was arrested about 12:30 p.m., the chief said. The fire department has not released the cause of the fire.
Langve said that while it is too early to say how the case will be prosecuted, the structure of the juvenile justice system is such that “it can approach the totality of the circumstance, and truly looks at identifying the core issues behind the behavior and getting the individual, especially a child, more the help they need to prevent recidivism.”
Langve added that even though the post office is a federal organization, given the age of the boy early indications are that prosecution will likely be handled locally.
According to Laurel Fire Marshall, Jason Chovar, initial damage estimates from the post office are in the range of $20,000-$25,000. There was no reported damage at the Walmart.
The post office — the only one in Laurel — was closed Thursday but reopened again Friday morning.
Access to post office boxes is limited because of the damage, and all PO box mail will be handed over the retail counter, according to the U.S. Postal Service.
-Connor Pregizer reporting for MTN News