Viterbo student arrested for arson released on $1,000 signature bond

Viterbo student arrested for arson in connection to a residence hall fire also student targeted for alleged racial hate crimes
P Viterbo Fire

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – A Viterbo University student is under arrest for arson in connection to a small fire inside a campus residence hall early Sunday morning.  City of La Crosse fire crews arrived at Viterbo University shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday for a small fire burning inside Marian residence hall.

An official news release from La Crosse Fire Department officials said the fire was inside a garbage can. The fire produced minor damage and an investigation found a student intentionally set the fire.

Viterbo University sent an email telling the campus community a student was arrested for arson and mishandling of flammable objects. A police report obtained by a public records request shows the fire came from the second-floor lounge of the residence hall. Police interviewed one student on the floor who it turns out was also named as a victim of the alleged racially motivated hate crimes Viterbo University is currently investigating.

The report highlights a conversation between this student and a La Crosse police officer. The report says the student messaged a friend that she was potentially the victim of another hate crime because the fire started next to her dorm room.

Security cameras exist on the second floor of this building because of those alleged hate crimes around the student’s door this semester according to Viterbo University’s Director of Campus Safety who is interviewed in the report.

This student told police she heard a smoke alarm and started to alert people in the building. Law enforcement said the student’s story didn’t line up with video captured on those security cameras.

Police say the student later admitted to intentionally setting the fire in the lounge for attention purposes – telling police, “No one was listening anymore.” We are not naming the student until official charges are filed by the state of Wisconsin.

However, News 8 Now found out this student is the same student who spoke at a rally on Viterbo’s campus on March 11 stating she was the victim of racist messages written on her dorm room door. She told the campus community in her speech that her parents were making her leave the university because of those incidents.

Viterbo President Glena Temple tells News 8 Now in part quote, “The safety, health, and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff are always our top priority. The student arrested in this incident is no longer on campus and has traveled home.

“This is a complex situation that involves a series of concerning incidents. We continue to investigate the incidents earlier in the semester and any potential link between them and this fire. The investigation includes numerous interviews, handwriting analysis by an FBI certified analyst, the installation of additional security cameras, and an increased security presence.

“We remain concerned about the student’s well-being and we will continue to work with her and her family. In addition, we continue to hold listening sessions and expanded student support services to assist all our students during these difficult times.”

The student was released with a $1,000 signature bond and cannot have contact with Viterbo University property. She is set to appear in La Crosse County Court on June 24.