News, On Campus

Student To Be Tried For Setting Fires

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series on the fires that were set in Stokes Hall and Gasson Hall on Nov. 9.

On Dec. 30, Pengliang Yue, A&S ’15, appeared in the Newton District Court in a Probable Cause Hearing regarding the fires set in Gasson and Stokes Halls last November. No judgment was issued from the hearing, however, and it was set to be continued on Jan. 31. Yue was arraigned in that court on Nov. 27 on nine counts-three counts of attempted arson, four counts of destruction of property, one count of arson, and one count of disorderly conduct-to which he pled not guilty, according to court documents.

The Commonwealth requested that bail be set to $5,000 and the defense requested that it be set at $2,000. Citing his lack of a criminal record, bail was set to $2,500 cash with conditions-Yue was ordered to stay away from Boston College and surrender his passport to the Probation Department.

He was further forbidden from possessing any incendiary devices, from consuming alcohol, and from leaving the state of Massachusetts. Yue is also required to report to probation one day per week, submit to random alcohol screenings, and continue to live in his apartment on Commonwealth Ave.

According to the police report filed by BCPD with the Newton District Court, the police department received a dispatch at 9:47 p.m. on Nov. 9 for a fire in Gasson Hall. Officers Bueno, Gannon, and Holland responded to the dispatch. Gannon observed two wooden chairs in Gasson 100 on fire, which he was able to extinguish with his boot. The overlooking balcony door was open and there were ashes on the floor and railing, according to the police report written by Holland.

At 9:59 p.m., there was a second dispatch for an active fire alarm in Stokes Hall. Officer Joey Marano, who wrote the second police report, responded to find that the smoke detector by room 451 in Stokes North had been triggered. In the nearby cubicles, he found smoke five feet from the ceiling and a chair and desk on fire in cubicle 420D. The Newton Fire Department determined that the fire was extinguished by the sprinkler system. Marano also found that cubicles 320A and D had papers lit on fire, but they smoldered out on their own.

On Nov. 26, Yue was brought into the BCPD office for an interview with Deputy Chief of Police Thomas Atkinson and Detective Sergeant David Flaherty, who wrote the report submitted to the court. During the first part of the interview, Yue maintained his original story that he left O’Neill Library around 9:30 p.m., walked past the north side of Gasson Hall, and waited for the bus at the College Road bus stop. After Yue finished giving his account, Atkinson and Flaherty left the room for 10 minutes, before returning to confront Yue about the accuracy of his story.

According to the police report, the defendant then confessed that he had lit the fires.* Before he was on campus, he ate dinner at a friend’s house, where he consumed both beer and vodka. In order to print a ticket for a career event, Yue went to the O’Neill library. Upon leaving the library around 9:30 p.m., he was approached by some acquaintances who invited him to a party. When he declined their invitation, Yue was ridiculed by them for not going to the party, which he said made him very upset.

“Yue reported continuing to the bus stop, but realized he had missed the most recent bus,” read the report. “He reported being underdressed for the weather and tried to enter Lyons Hall (where he is a student employee) to warm up. Upon finding that building locked, he proceeded to Gasson Hall where he found the north side doors unlocked. He entered and went to the second floor where he used the restroom.

“Upon exiting, he discovered the door to the balcony overlooking room 100 unsecured,” the report continued. “He entered the area and discovered some papers. Having found a lighter in his pocket earlier, he decided to light the papers on fire. After doing so, he was surprised by how quickly the flames expanded and tried to stomp them out with his feet. He was unable to do so and threw them over the railing to the area below. He reported observing them burn more heavily and catch the chairs on fire. He reported panicking and fleeing the area heading back towards the bus stop.”

Upon leaving Gasson, Yue realized that he missed the bus again and went into Stokes Hall, where he said that he got lost and wandered around the second, third, and fourth floors.

“He reported getting lost on what he thought might have been the second floor,” read the report. “While on that floor, he lit some stacks of paper on fire and ran from that area, again getting lost. He reported going up a floor and lighting another area on fire.”

Yue said that he left Stokes Hall and returned to his apartment via the Commonwealth Ave. bus.

After taking his statement, the BCPD had him sign a written statement and consent to a search of his phone. University administrators came to the BCPD office and suspended him before he was arrested by BCPD.

*An earlier version of this article said that Yue confessed to lighting the fires in Gasson Hall and Stokes Hall without clarifying that the information came from a BCPD report that was submitted to the Newton District Court.


January 27, 2014