13-year-old who set fire to Lacasse Park playground writes apology letter
'It was a genuine, honest mistake'
The 13-year-old boy who set fire to the playground at Lacasse Park in Tecumseh has penned an apology letter to the public explaining he understands the impact his actions had on the community.
Tecumseh firefighters found the playground equipment on fire sending thick, black smoke into the sky on Oct. 10. The equipment was scorched black after crews put out the blaze.
Town of Tecumseh paid $800,000 to repair the damage.
The boy, who was charged with arson, has gone through the Essex County Diversion Program in order to take responsibility for his actions.
The executive director of the program, Joanna Conrad says the fire "was a genuine, honest mistake."
"I think it is fair to say [that] growing up we all make poor choices, some of us on a larger scale than others," said Conrad.
She added the boy showed up for the first day of the program in a suit and tie and was eager to participate.
"He walked into it not only apologizing to everybody, but really wanting to take additional accountability for what he had done," she said. "[We] really felt that he had understood the impact of his actions, not just the people who were present but the community as well."
The 13-year-old offered his birthday money to the Town of Tecumseh to help pay for the damages. The town did not accept his offer, but according to a press release the gesture "made an impressionable impact."
Conrad described the course the boy completed, called the Youth Justice Committee, as one of the most effective options the Diversion Program offers. The accused sits down with the victim to negotiate meaningful ways for the youth to repair the damage done.
"We have never had a young person go through it and come back for a referral," she said.
Here is a statement the 13-year-old boy sent to media:
"I would like to say to everyone reading this that I am writing this letter because i want to explain to everyone reading how the fire happened and what I have done to try to help fix what I did. When I started the fire, I brought some paper and a little bit of gas in a water bottle with my friend to the park because I thought it was just going to be a small fire and we could have a little fun but obviously that didn't happen and the fire immediately went out to control and I tried to stop it but I wasn't able to.
I realize that because of that I did I have affected taxpayers because they now have to pay more, children that are now unable to play on the park, the mayor since he now has to deal with questions and people's concerns, the reputation of Tecumseh especially since at the time there was an out of town team playing baseball right next to the park, and anyone that was there or nearby when it happened because they saw and crowded around the fire.
What I have done to try to help out is that I have met with the mayor and others to talk to them about what happened and what I can do to help and one suggestion they gave was writing this letter which I was happy to accept. I have also completed the tapp-c program, I will also be applying for youth (town council) and will be completing the rebound life choices program. I have learned to always think twice about something before you do it and think about all the outcomes of what could happen and I have also started helping my family more and we have made our home more fire safe. I would like to thank everyone who reads this and can understand how sorry I am."