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Caltech Student Arrested in Arson Spree

by la times article posted by ME Wednesday, Mar. 10, 2004 at 3:17 PM

SOMEONE OWES JOSH AN APOLOGY! A Caltech graduate student allegedly affiliated with an eco-terrorist group was arrested today in connection with last summer's arson attacks aimed at Hummers and other sports utility vehicles at four dealerships in the San Gabriel Valley.


Caltech Student Arrested in Arson Spree

By Jesus Sanchez

Times Staff Writer

3:00 PM PST, March 9, 2004

A Caltech graduate student allegedly affiliated with an eco-terrorist group was arrested today in connection with last summer's arson attacks aimed at Hummers and other sports utility vehicles at four dealerships in the San Gabriel Valley.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested William Jensen Cottrell, 23, on federal charges of arson and vandalism, said FBI Assistant Director Richard T. Garcia.

Cottrell, who is a physics graduate student at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate this afternoon in Los Angeles.

Cottrell, using the alias Tony Marsden, sent several e-mails to the Los Angeles Times claiming responsibility for the arson attacks and confirming his affiliation with the Earth Liberation Front, according to the FBI. In the messages, which were sent one month after the fire bombings, Cottrell gave specific details of the attacks to prove his involvement.

The Aug. 22 attacks caused more than million in damage, which included the destruction of more than 100 vehicles and one commercial building. The attacks were also one of the more brazen in a string of incidents in California linked to environmental terrorists.

According to the FBI, spray-painted in either red or blue on the vandalized vehicles were the words: "ELF", "I ♥ Pollution", "Polluter" and "SUV = Terrorism."

"Those who set fires, like those at the Hummer dealership in West Covina, are misguided zealots," said Garcia of the FBI. "The FBI respects, encourages and protects people who peacefully exercise their right to free speech. However, when extremists resort to arson attacks, which inevitably will lead to a loss of life, they have gone too far and the FBI will investigate aggressively and relentlessly to bring those who set such fires to justice."

After the attacks, FBI agents arrested but later released one environmental activist, Josh Connole, 25. He denied any involvement in the crime and denounced the tactics used by the ELF.

As early as September, authorities focused on Caltech because it appeared that the e-mails sent to The Times may have originated from computers at the campus.

In late January, the FBI focused on a computer found in a building at the university that is accessible only to students and faculty, according to people familiar with the case. Agents also questioned some graduate students at Caltech.

The school has been cooperating with investigators while "mindful of the rights of our student and our legal obligations," said a statement by spokesman Robert L. O'Rourke. "There should be no question, however, that these acts of vandalism are neither supported nor endorsed by Caltech and are directly contrary to our mission."

Times staff writer Greg Krikorian contributed to this story.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at

Click here for article licensing and reprint options


Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

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FBI will investigate aggressively and relentlessly to bring those who Yorgul the Bastard Wednesday, Mar. 10, 2004 at 5:22 PM
Kill the prick Walker, Texas Ranger Thursday, Mar. 11, 2004 at 1:08 AM
truly horrible punishment Meyer London Thursday, Mar. 11, 2004 at 11:54 AM
Yo Walker Ralphy Thursday, Mar. 11, 2004 at 2:36 PM
Cuba Meyer London Thursday, Mar. 11, 2004 at 4:05 PM
Meyer, you need a ticket to North Korea Barney Thursday, Mar. 11, 2004 at 7:26 PM
LIBERALS, YOU GOT SERVED. Walker, Long Beach Ranger Friday, Mar. 12, 2004 at 3:09 AM
kowasabe Tonto Friday, Mar. 12, 2004 at 9:46 AM
comparing me to Bush Hitler Friday, Mar. 12, 2004 at 9:48 AM
The same shills the same lies Parmenides Friday, Mar. 12, 2004 at 12:26 PM
Bush comparison maligns Hitler, say mouthpiece for exiled former Fuehrer doug Friday, Mar. 12, 2004 at 1:10 PM

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