A high school drama teacher in Graham, N.C. has been arrested for allegedly committing arson in the auditorium last Wednesday and then encouraging students to lie about it.
Police believe the teacher, Michael Shannon, made an increasingly bad series of choices, according to local Fox affiliate WGHP.
Investigators theorize that Shannon, 28, purposefully started a big fire in the school’s auditorium in an attempt to cover up a small, accidental fire that was somehow ignited backstage during rehearsal for an upcoming school play.
Police think the first, small fire was put out quickly. However, they believe the faux hawk-festooned drama teacher got flustered when alarms went off as a result of that small fire.
“He panicked because now the alarm is going off,” the town’s police chief, Steve McGilvray, told WGHP.
“It was not an accidental fire,” McGilvray added. “It was intentionally set.”
One of the biggest pieces against Shannon is a surveillance tape showing that he was in no rush to leave the backstage area when the fire broke out. He stuck around, apparently, to organize various items.
Meanwhile, video shows smoke pouring out of the auditorium doors.
“If there’s a fire and the fire is in here, I’m going out that door,” McGilvray told the Fox affiliate. “I’m not making sure that other things are in place before I leave.”
Police say the drama teacher also urged students to lie about the origin of the fire, so they have tacked on an obstruction of justice charge as well.
Some students at Graham High are skeptical of the official police theory.
“That’s a bunch of crap,” senior Autumn Horner told WGHP. “Mr. Shannon would never do that, that’s his home. He spends more time at that theater than he does at his home.”
Horner created a Facebook page in support of Shannon. It’s called Friends of the Theatre Unite. There’s also a Twitter hash tag: Save Shannon.
Meanwhile, Shannon was arrested on Monday and later released on a $25,000 bond.
The teacher is now on leave from his job as well. It’s not clear if the suspension is paid or unpaid.