On September 24, 2021 at approximately 0915 hours, Administrative Staff and School Resource Officers (SRO) at Bartow High School were notified of visible smoke in one of the educational buildings on campus. Upon their arrival, it was discovered that a soap dispenser in a male restroom was lit on fire. All students in the area were evacuated and the fire was contained resulting in minimal damage. Upon further investigation, the SROs were able to identify the fire was the result of Arson. They were also quickly able to identify the suspect as a 16 year old BHS student. Detectives with the Bartow Police Department later took the suspect into custody. At this point in the investigation, it does not appear the incident was a result of the TikTok challenge called “devious lick”. The suspect was not in possession of a recording device and no such videos have been discovered in this investigation.
“The student made an extremely poor choice today that could have resulted in serious injuries to students and staff. Fortunately, fire prevention measures worked as they should have and school staff responded accordingly. I’m thankful that one of our SROs, who suffered smoke inhalation, will make a full recovery,” said Bartow Police Interim Chief Bryan Dorman.
“We are grateful and relieved that this incident was quickly contained and that no one was seriously injured,” said Frederick Heid, superintendent of Polk County Public Schools. “We appreciate the work of the Bartow Police Department, firefighters, and our staff at Bartow High. We practice safety drills each year to ensure that we are always prepared for any number of potential emergencies that may impact our campuses,” Heid said. “The callous actions of a single individual jeopardized the health, safety, and welfare of an entire school campus today. There is simply no excuse for this type of behavior. The individual involved will face serious disciplinary consequences. In addition to criminal charges, we will address this to the fullest extent possible in accordance with our student code of conduct. Any activity intended to disrupt a school campus/activity is unconscionable and will not be tolerated.”
The SRO was treated and released from Bartow Regional Medical Center for minor complications due to smoke inhalation.
The student, who will not be named due to his age, was arrested and charged with the following crimes: Arson of an occupied structure, Arson resulting in an injury and Disruption of the educational process. He was later transported and released to the Juvenile Assessment Center.
BPD Detectives are working closely with our partners at the State of Florida Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosive Investigations and Polk County Public Schools in this joint investigation.