CATONSVILLE, Md. — The Albin O. Kuhn Library, the Meyerhoff chemistry building and Sherman Hall are all key landmarks on the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the sites of minor fires stretching from late December through April.
“They were just very small fires, trash cans, a box of books,” said Sr. Dep. State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire, “Our investigators investigated. We just really couldn’t develop any suspects.”
As investigators took a closer look at the fires, they noted each of them occurred in areas off-limits to students and where there were no surveillance cameras.
Attention immediately shifted to UMBC Police Officer Walter Christopher, who had been the first on the scene at each of the fires, and now investigators say they know why.
“Our investigators started digging a little bit deeper, and they started using cell phone technology and IP addresses to develop Mr. Christopher as a suspect,” said Alkire, “Just minutes before each of these fires, there were certain electronic items that were connecting to the Wi-Fi within that college.”
In its initial notice of an arrest for students, the university made no mention that the suspect was an officer on campus, but it has since released a statement saying Christopher has been a member of the force for two years and has now been suspended.
As for a motive, investigators say everything points to what’s commonly referred to as ‘Hero Syndrome’.
“This is one of those things where is it a vanity thing? Is it a hero thing?” said Alkire, “That’s one of those things our investigators will continue to look at.”
Christopher is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center with no bond.