Police Fatally Shoot Suspected Arsonist at Torrance Middle School

The man was accused of setting his mother's home on fire before torching his former girlfriend's apartment, police said.

A 19-year-old man suspected of torching his mother's home after setting fire to an apartment that his 2-year-old son narrowly escaped was killed on Thursday in an officer-involved shooting at the Torrance middle school he once attended, authorities said.

Asa James Dolak of Torrance, who had threatened to kill police officers and his own family members, was armed with a knife when officers and detectives found him hiding about 1:30 p.m. inside a women's restroom at Madrona Middle School in the 21300 block of Madrona Avenue, Torrance police Sgt. Robert Watt said.

Police fired after Dolak ran from officers, refusing their commands for him to drop the weapon and surrender, Watt said. His body could be seen lying in the grass of the schoolyard, which was closed for the holidays.

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The school is across the street from his mother's house, which police accuse him of burning at 2 a.m.

Dolak allegedly had been fighting with his ex-girlfriend -- the mother of his child -- on Christmas night when the argument escalated, officials said. He allegedly threatened her and a friend with a knife, punched out a TV and busted her phone, Watt said.

Nicholas Ruppert was at the home when Dolak allegedly snuck in through the back door. He said Dolak had called his ex-girlfriend -- who police said recently took out a restraining order against the suspect -- about 40 times in two hours.

Ruppert said Dolak poured a water bottle of lighter fluid on the living room floor, and soon after he heard flames.

The ex-girlfriend went outside to get help.


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"As she ran out, he then set the apartment on fire," Watt said. "He fled the location and left the 2-year-old there, basically to burn to death."

The boy suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to a hospital where he was stable condition, police said.

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Police said Dolack then set fire to his mother's home, about 4 miles away. In a handwritten statement given to NBC4, the suspect's mother said he called her and threatened, "Your house is next."

It was at this time that police spoke with Dolack over the phone. Dolack threatened to hurt anyone who got in his way, even officers, police said.

"He was upset with his family," Watt said. "He was going to kill his family ... if police contacted him, he was going to kill the police and he was gonna do so every 20 minutes."

Dolak’s sister, Elizabeth Dolak, said her younger brother needed help.

"He was depressed, seems like everybody turns their back on him. I did it, too. I just gave up trying to help him," she said. "But I never wanted to see my brother shot dead.

"If you have a family member that is going through something, please don’t alienate them even if they’ve hurt you."

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