A 23-year-old Surrey man is facing arson charges in the incident at Langara College Monday that closed down the school and saw heavily armed police officers searching the campus.
Nasradin Abdusamad Ali, a student at the school, was arrested Monday afternoon and is now facing one count of arson and one count of possession of incendiary material. Vancouver police media relations officer Const. Jason Doucette said police anticipate additional charges could be laid in the case.
Just before noon on Monday, Vancouver police and firefighters responded to reports of a suspicious fire at the campus on East 49th Avenue.
“A suspect had allegedly entered the college with improvised incendiary devices,” said Vancouver police media relations officer Const. Jason Doucette. “It appears at least two devices were detonated, causing fires, before the suspect fled the area.”
Doucette said officers located at least one more “device” in the school.
“Our bomb disposal unit neutralized that at the scene.”
Doucette said that police are not aware of any threats made at the school before Monday’s incident. According to the B.C. court registry, an individual with the same name was charged with theft under $5,000 and uttering threats In February 2018. Those charges were eventually stayed.
Nursing student Bal Sekhon had just finished writing an exam and was heading to the library to study when, she said, students were initially evacuated from the science and technology building (also referred to as the T building) and the library. She told the Courier students and staff members were initially allowed back in a short time later.
Sekhon said she was studying for her next exam in the library when about 20 minutes later at around 12:50 p.m. a police officer came into the library and told students and staff to leave immediately.
“As we were walking out, we saw the guys with the rifles and the helmets walking in.”
The Vancouver police emergency response team was called in and spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening searching the campus for additional hazards. East 49th between Ontario and Alberta streets was closed for several hours as first responders converged on the campus.
Doucette said police quickly identified Ali as a suspect in the fires and he was arrested just after 4 p.m. in Surrey by Metro Vancouver Transit Police. He was turned over the Vancouver police and remains in custody.
Langara cancelled all classes and exams Monday afternoon and evening and closed its other campus on West Broadway. The West Broadway location was open again Tuesday but the main campus remained closed. Students, staff and faculty were being allowed back into the school to collect any personal belongings left behind.
The school is scheduled to re-open Wednesday for classes and exams, however, the T building will remain closed until further notice.