By The Leader Staff
Suspect Glenn Dunkel
Suspect Glenn Dunkel

On Friday, July 8, at about 8:20 a.m., Kings County deputies arrived at Stratford Elementary School after reporting that the cell tower at this location was on fire. Kings County Fire Department was already on scene and requested assistance to investigate possible vandalism.

 As deputies arrived, they saw smoke billowing out of the cell tower and a strong smell of burnt plastic.

A witness told deputies that they had seen an adult male enter the fenced-in area around the cell tower and later observed this male leave once the fire started. According to sheriff's deputies' reports, the description of the male matched that of a suspect, Glenn Dunkel, who lived just north of the school.

Deputies had previously investigated Dunkel for vandalism to the school and the Tachi Palace.

Deputies contacted Dunkel at his residence, and according to deputies, the suspect screamed at authorities and said he did not wish to speak to them.

As deputies continued efforts to speak with Dunkel, officers suspected he may have been under the influence of a controlled substance. Deputies arrested Dunkel and booked him into Kings County Jail for being under the influence of a controlled substance. Deputies also had a warrant out of San Bernardino County with a bail of $25,000.

 As the investigation into the fire continued, authorities viewed video surveillance from the elementary school. The footage showed Dunkel entering the area with a plastic bottle with an unknown liquid. The suspect had a silver object in his other hand that appeared to be a lighter. This lighter was located on him during his arrest.

 According to deputies, the suspect was seen placing the unknown liquid into an opening on the cell tower and then reaching with his hand to extend the lighter into the opening.

Deputies worked closely with Kings County Fire Department investigators, who suspected that Dunkel had started the fire.

 The initial estimate to repair the tower is over $100,000. The damage caused significant disruption to the Stratford area in regard to internet and cell phone service.

 Deputies charged the suspect with arson, vandalism, and trespassing. His bail was set at $150,000.